Dan Walsh, Staff Writer, NRL.com
The hullabaloo from Round 3 lingers but the football Gods have spoke and the precious competition points distributed. However, is the NRL ladder a true reflection of the strength of performance of the 16 teams? NRL.com re-ranks the clubs following last weekend's results.
1. Storm (Last week 1)
Got the job done against a plucky Knights side, and their lesser lights continue to steal the spotlight from the Big Three, with exciting wingers Sisa Waqa and Young Tonumaipea combining for 257 metres and a try apiece last night. And should things get too close for comfort, just give it to Cam Smith, who again locked up the result with another big play in the dying stages of the match.
2. Roosters (2)
The Broncos were home, hosed and grazing in the back paddock last week before the Roosters conjured two tries in five minutes, sneaking in for the kind of win that separates the men from the boys. That they did it with just a 67 per cent completion rate and 30 missed tackles will have Chooks fans crowing, but they know they won’t get away with that against their old sparring partner Manly.
3. Manly (4)
See above. They were nowhere near their best, and came within 30 seconds of dropping two opening matches at Brookie for the first time since 2009. Strap yourself in for this week’s grand final rematch, and look for Steve Matai to continue his brilliant start to the year – four tries, four line break assists and an average of 109 running metres – Kiwi compatriot Shaun Kenny-Dowell will have his hands full.
4. Panthers (6)
There’s certainly something cooking in the kitchen out west, with the Panthers joining the competition heavyweights in pulling a last-minute win out of the fire against the Dogs. The performances of Kevin Naiqama and Isaac John as late call-ups to the side are a fair indication of the avalanche of talent at the foot of the mountains.
5. Dragons (7)
A record of 3-0 for the first time since the Wayne Bennett era and the Dragons took another step toward proving their undefeated start is no flash in pan. The win against the Sharks was anything but pretty, Brett Morris’s acrobatics aside, but it showed the Dragons can tough out a win like the days of old, and will give them plenty of confidence ahead of their biggest test so far when they host Brisbane in Wollongong.
6. Broncos (5)
There was plenty to like about the Broncos' last-gasp defeat at the hands of the premiers, not least the two-try performance of sometimes-maligned halfback Ben Hunt, or the fact they looked the better of the two sides for 75 minutes. While they should have got the win they can take plenty of comfort in crossing the white stripe five times against the best defensive side of 2013.
7. Tigers (12)
Any pack that can belt the Burgess boys out of the game deserves a rap, and the Tigers forwards roared into life last Friday with seven of the big boppers running for over 100 metres against the Bunnies. The likes of James Tedesco, Robbie Farah and wonder boy Luke Brooks are going to look dangerous in most games, but with a platform of that quality the Tigers looked thoroughly irresistible. If they can back it up against the Warriors they’ll have the competition’s best well and truly looking over their shoulders.
8. Souths (4)
While the early departure of Greg Inglis last week certainly took the jam out of the South Sydney donut, the Bunnies will be under no illusions as to how far they slipped against the Tigers. With a whopping 17 errors and 10 penalties conceded you can bet Michael Maguire will be kicking his side up and down the training paddock all week in a bid to knock their worrying ill-discipline on the head.
9. Titans (13)
Apparently the Titans haven’t got the memo. Don’t they know you’re not meant to win when you give up 56 per cent of possession in the first half and lose a penalty count 15-8? The gutsiest of wins... but imagine what they could do if they weren’t giving the opposition a leg and a half up each game?
10. Bulldogs (8)
Should have got the chocolates out west were it not for a bit of late Panther brilliance, but they didn’t exactly set the world alight in the previous 79 minutes and you have to wonder how much longer they can carry Tony Williams. The Dogs take on the undefeated Storm this week, and are staring down one win from the first month of the season if they can’t aim up.
11. Cowboys (9)
Dear oh dear. It is only three games into the year but the Cowboys are already showing worrying signs of regressing to the type of form that saw them sitting with just four wins at the halfway point of the 2013 season before their stunning run into the finals. For a side with the best front-rowers in the competition, a more than capable backline and a bloke by the name of Johnathan Thurston directing them around the park, serving up the Warriors their first win on a platter and falling to a 1-2 start simply isn't good enough.
12. Knights (11)
Almost put a tough week off the field on ice as they pushed the Storm all the way down in Melbourne and will be looking forward to next week’s date with the winless Sharks, as they know when two desperate parties hook up, someone’s bound to get lucky.
13. Eels (14)
You can kick and scream all you want about 'dud' calls but it’s not going to make a lick of difference. What will is finding a goal kicker who’s going to send the Steeden towards those two big posts in the middle of the field, rather than the cardboard one over in the far corner. Joseph Paulo is a fair player but simply not up to NRL standard as a sharp shooter, and Parramatta need another option if they’re to close out the tight games that can change a season. Over to you, Jarryd Hayne.
14. Warriors (16)
With their first win in Townsville since 2002 the Warriors finally got their season underway and cooked everyone’s tips in the process. Impressively they bagged the points without forward leader Ben Matulino, who only got through 20 minutes before his night ended early with an ugly head wound.
15. Raiders (14)
Looked the goods for 40 minutes against the Titans but need more in attack than just throwing the ball to Anthony Milford and saying ‘go’. As good as the kid is, he’s not a light switch and the Raiders are going to need a Plan B when teams shut him down. Ricky Stuart’s hairline would also appreciate it if the Green Machine eliminated the two soft dummy-half tries they conceded from their game.
16. Sharks (15)
The Sharkies are just too good a side and have too much talent to be sitting down the bottom of the sea for long, and were circling a first-up win over local rivals St George Illawarra, but the class needed to close out a tight match was still sitting on the sidelines. Andrew Fifita should be frothing at the mouth as he comes back for his first match since announcing his defection to the Dogs.