Are we serious? Damn right! The Tricolours may have cut off their heads with a woeful display of discipline against the Sea Eagles, resulting in an inglorious 11-2 penalty count against them, but there was plenty to like about the way they shut down one of the best attacks in the league who dominated with a 56 per cent share of possession. The Chooks were basted most of the night, spending little more than a quarter of the game in opposition territory, but despite an intense grilling from Manly they refused to be burned and displayed the same defensive resolve that took them all the way last year.
2. Sea Eagles (4)
Just pipped to the top rung by the team they beat on the weekend. It was a typically grinding display from the seasiders, who erased painful memories of losing four straight to the Roosters last season - including the grand final. The Sea Eagles have come out the other side of the toughest start in the competition with three wins and the knowledge they can take on all comers. Tougher than a $2 steak and a far more appetising prospect, despite the low-scoring grand final rematch.
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Just what to make of their 28-point thumping? Given talismanic skipper Cameron Smith’s last-minute withdrawal, plus the week of emotion surrounding Alex McKinnon and the judiciary-referred Jordan McLean, perhaps not as much as the deficit would suggest. We’re prepared to give them another viewing before sawing through their lofty ladder rungs. They tallied an out-of-character 39 missed tackles. They won’t miss that many in their next two games combined – and are unlikely to miss even 15 this week against the Titans at home.
4. Broncos (6)
When Dragons centre Gerard Beale touched down out wide with 15 minutes left last Friday, Anthony Griffin must have thought he’d been cast in an NRL remake of Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day. It’s hard to imagine a Broncos side featuring Darren Lockyer letting a game like that get away, so it was fitting that Ben Hunt, the most improved player at the club and the man charged with taking the long-term reins from the game’s likely next Immortal, stepped up and put the result beyond doubt.
What to make of the Dogs this year? They lead the competition for most points scored and fewest conceded - yet are sitting on a 2-2-win-loss record and have bookended two thrashings of sides that featured in last year’s finals with insipid losses against a couple of 2013 also-rans. Even Tony Williams looked good in running over the top of the Storm last week but the real test will be for their big guns Graham, Reynolds, Hodkinson and Morris to string together two performances in a row this week against the premiers.
6. Dragons (5)
Brett Finch made one hell of an arrival when he parachuted into WIN Stadium last Friday, but unfortunately for the Dragons their landing was not as smooth as Finchy’s when the Broncos brought them back to earth with an almighty thud after three straight wins. The Dragons still sit atop the ladder but that will change if they cannot aim up against a Souths side with a point to prove this Saturday at the SCG.
Show your true colours. Become a member of your club.7. Titans (9)
Monday night’s win over the Cowboys was that unpleasant to watch it probably should have come with a paper bag, but you’d imagine the Titans couldn’t care less provided they keep waking up to two competition points every week. Attractive they ain't but impressive scramble defence and three tough wins have the Titans sitting pretty after a month of football.
8. Panthers (6)
For all the hype out Penrith way the Mountain Men find themselves only a middle of the road eighth on the premiership ladder after coming up with an embarrassing 34 missed tackles against the Eels. The talent and personnel are certainly there but Ivan Cleary will be desperate for halves Soward and Wallace to be fully fit and building on the 70 minutes of game time they’ve had together this year.
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9. Rabbitohs (8)
Not all is well in Rabbitoh Land, if reports in some sections of the media (not us) are to believed, but Sam Burgess did at least kill two birds with one stone when he fronted the fourth estate after the Bunnies worst performance in years against the Raiders. Big Sam used his time in front of the press to both deny rumours of a rift at the club and hit the nail on the head: You just won’t win football games if you complete only 60 per cent of your sets.
10. Knights (12)
Newcastle has proven time and time again it’s a town that rallies around its own like no other, and for a bloke like Wayne Bennett to be moved to tears is an indication of the emotion running through the place following Alex McKinnon’s tragic injury. The only thing that will be harder than last week for the players is this coming round, when the Knights will have to pick themselves up after such a draining week to focus on the day-to-day grind of a season in the toughest competition in the world.
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11. Eels (13)
Forget Sandow’s return, Peats out of dummy-half or the Semi-trailer out on the left flank. The real reason behind Parra’s impressive win against Penrith stems from none other than turning over the match-day Twitter account to funny man Darcy Lussick. With classics such as "William Hopoate with some great defence. He’s a great man Will, if I had a daughter she’s marrying him"; and "Free beer at Parramatta Leagues Club tonight come one come all", the Eels are onto a good thing and should be loathe to change up a winning, not to mention hilarious, formula.
12. Warriors (14)
Jeez that looked like the Warriors of old, didn’t it? Eight tries in 44 minutes certainly sounds like the Warriors of old and Sam Tomkins looks to be finding some rather elusive feet at NRL level based on that display against the Tigers. But while running roughshod over a depleted team at home is one thing, Kiwi fans will be all too aware the Warriors are more than capable of ending up back at square one within a week, with a tricky away game against the last-placed Sharkies the type of fixture that could be their undoing.
13. Raiders (15)
Should probably find themselves higher in the rankings after putting away an abysmal Souths side at the weekend but even with a completion rate of 92 per cent, it can’t really be overstated as to how little fight the Rabbitohs put up against the Green Machine. In a round where plenty of teams picked themselves up off the canvas, Ricky Stuart’s men have to fall into line somewhere. If they can back up against the Panthers for back-to-back away wins for the first time since 2010, then the Raiders will have the NRL’s heavyweights on notice.
14. Wests Tigers (7)
Tigers insiders did tell us to expect up and down performances from their young side and turning a 12-0 lead after 30 minutes into a 18-42 drubbing is a fair old yo-yo impression. Were always going to do it tough with just one fit reserve by the end of it but could be in for more of the same this Sunday against the high-flying Sea Eagles.
15. Cowboys (11)
It’s safe to say Johnathan Thurston would’ve spoken for every Cowboys fan and punter when he gave his side an absolute gobful after their dismal loss to the Titans. JT wouldn’t reveal what was said in his post-match presser, which we imagine the lawyers down at Fox Sports are thankful for, but the spray was certainly warranted and worse could come if his star-studded side turns in a similar performance at home against the Knights.
16. Sharks (16)
The last side to win after a 0-4 start to the season was the mighty Newtown Jets back in 1933, so the Sharks have their work cut out for them in reversing 81 years of history. A more recent effort to model themselves on may be the 2009 Sea Eagles outfit, who put aside a different kind of off-field controversy to that which has faced Cronulla this year to push through four first-up losses to qualify for the finals.
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