Dan Walsh, Staff Writer
Still occupy top spot in our Power Rankings despite the Panthers bumping them from the perch of the NRL ladder and being thoroughly hustled and outmuscled by the Bulldogs on Friday. The NRL race is by no means run in Round 17, which means Geoff Toovey still has plenty of time to work on his side and their habit of following up an outstanding performance against a heavyweight (think their two wins over the premiers this year), with mediocre encores (their Round 5 hiding from the Tigers and the flat showing against the Dogs.)
2. Bulldogs (3)
Not content with fielding the biggest pack in the competition, Des Hasler went the whole hog last Friday and fielded the biggest halves combination the world has seen with Tony Williams impressing enough in the No.7 role to be called into the NSW squad as cover for teammates Josh Reynolds and Trent Hodkinson. A little food for thought, not that T-Rex needs any extra, but his 31 touches of the ball (up from his 2014 average of 18) had the Manly defence on constant alert, and Des could do worse than get the big man off that left edge and into a roving forwards role.
3. Panthers (5)
All the pre-game hype focused on Tigers debutant Mitch Moses, but it was Penrith's own whiz kid at the back who lit up Leichhardt on Sunday afternoon. Custodian Matt Moylan, 23, stepped up to the plate when the Panthers lost halfback Peter Wallace in the 16th minute, and promptly belted the Tigers out of their own park, with a four-pointer to kick things off, and then three try assists, a brain snap or two in defence and a try-saving tackle to spearhead his side to their first win over their feline foes in eight outings.
4. Roosters (2)
Trent Robinson, post-Roosters capitulation against a Cronulla side lucky to be on the field - period - after the week it had endured: "It ended up being a team that thought they should win and one that wanted to win and that was the difference." The Chooks weren't alone in thinking they should win when they were up 24-0 a few minutes before halftime, but the reality is their second half would have cost them against most NSW Cup sides. Fifteen errors for the match, with four incomplete sets in a row preceding the Sharks' last two tries will ensure Robbo is cracking the whip over the bye week.
5. Warriors (6)
All quiet over the ditch this week, but it won't be come Saturday night when they pack 'em into Mt Smart Stadium for their clash with the Eels, where the visitors haven't won since the days of Brett Finch and Mark Riddell suiting up in the blue and gold, way back in 2007.
6. Rabbitohs (4)
"You can bottle that set of six and say this is how you don't play rugby league". That was Fox Sports' Warren Smith on a passage of play during Monday night's abomination, but the entire 80 minutes from the Rabbitohs could be used by 'Madge' Maguire as a tutorial in what not to do on a footy field. Fumbled and bumbled their way to 17 errors, 10 penalties and picked up a slew of injuries for their troubles as they slide back into the thicket of mid-table teams on 20 competition points.
7. Storm (7)
No rumblings down south as the Storm collected two competition points for nothing with their second bye of the year. Will be praying Cooper Cronk gets through Origin III in one piece.
8. Broncos (8)
They won't face former halfback Peter Wallace, who is a likely scratching with syndesmosis, but a Monday Night at the foot of the mountains against the top-of-the-table Penny Panthers is still one hell of a tough bid for two vital competition points for the middling Broncos this week.
9. Dragons (12)
There's still plenty of conjecture over who the Dragons trust their clipboard with in 2015, but the Red V could do much worse than stick with the bloke currently holding it. In six weeks Paul McGregor has added starch to a pack previously softer than microwaved butter, got Benji Marshall reproducing the brilliance of his halcyon days and done what only Wayne Bennett – ironically the name that just won't stop being linked to the Dragons head coaching gig – has managed this season: guided his side home on the back of a five-day turnaround.
10. Cowboys (9)
Shot out of the blocks to get on the board first in both halves against the Dragons, but let themselves down with a second-half completion rate of 65 per cent cruelling the fact they had he lion's share of possession. Missed Thurston's composure on the attack and are now long odds to feature come finals time given their woeful away record and the four competition points that separate them from the logjam around the edge of the top eight.
11. Eels (11)
Need an improved showing on their last effort after the bye, when they were pasted 38-12 by the Panthers, particularly with Jarryd Hayne no certainty to back up 72 hours after completing NSW duties at Suncorp. It won't be easy against the Warriors on their home patch though, where the home side hasn't lost in seven weeks and is averaging 31 points a game.
12. Tigers (9)
Right in it up until kick-off against the Panthers, the Tigers turned in arguably their worst performance of the year on their hallowed Leichhardt Oval turf. A whopping 51 missed tackles and a completion rate that at the half-hour mark had still failed to push above 50 per cent were never going to be good enough against the mountain men, and the Tigers need to get out of the win-loss, win-loss funk they've got themselves into over the past seven outings, though they'll be hard pressed doing so against a Manly side that has dropped just one game at Brookvale this year.
13. Titans (13)
David Mead wants to play fullback. David Mead plays well at fullback. The Titans actually look more dangerous than the common household doorstop when David Mead plays at fullback. So with all due respect to Will Zillman, who was another of the few bright spots in the Titans' upset win over the Rabbitohs, why doesn't David Mead play fullback? And on Monday's bunny boilover, when you haven't won since the Anzac Day weekend you can't be picky, but aside from some desperate goal line defence, there was very little to write home about.
14. Knights (14)
Two competition points from the bye makes it three weeks in a row the Knights have claimed the maximum, and get the chance to further distance themselves from the most unwanted cutlery in the rugby league kitchen when they take on the resurgent Sharks at Remondis Stadium this Sunday.
15. Sharks (15)
You call that a miracle? This is a miracle. Just eight days since trumping the Broncos at Suncorp after falling 22 points behind, the Sharks went one better, reeling in the premiers from 24-0 before halftime to record one of the most remarkable wins in recent memory. Wade Graham joked after the game he owed Roosters halfback Mitch Pearce a beer for the intercept pass that kicked it all off, and caretaker-caretaker coach James Shepherd should also be lining up after being put through the emotional wringer by Graham's men in his first top flight outing.
16. Raiders (16)
Off the bye and up to the Gold Coast for a game well within their grasp given they have double the amount of preparation time than their opponents. How Ricky Stuart's team lists shape up in the coming weeks will provide the most amount of interest out of the capital, with calls for youngsters Mitch Cornish, Jack Ahearn and big boppas Patrick Mago and Tevita Pangai to be given a run only going to grow louder if the Raiders can't string some wins together.