Round 8 Power Rankings
1. Manly (1)
The Manly top brass have had to make some difficult decisions regarding their roster in recent times, moving on local favourite Glenn Stewart in order to retain the likes of Daly Cherry-Evans and Peta Hiku amongst others. It's not as if Sea Eagles officials have gone all in on these two, but don't their numbers from the weekend leave Geoff Toovey with a fair old hand? Seven try assists and four tries from the pair should have the Brookvale mortgage being renewed to make sure they're in the maroon and white for the next decade.
2. Bulldogs (2)
Haven't been at their best for the majority of the past month, but nonetheless have filled the biscuit tin with the kind of wins over the Warriors, Rabbitohs and Knights that give NRL coaches that warm fuzzy feeling. Tougher than a $2 steak, and have plenty of depth – particularly in the all-important engine room – that should see them healthily through the rep season.
3. Roosters (3)
"We're back," declared Jared Waerea-Hargreaves after the Roosters turned on a show befitting the Anzac Day occasion last week in their 20-point romp over the Dragons. Rest assured the big fella loves nothing more than a big occasion, and he and fellow Kiwi snub-ees Frank-Paul Nuuausala and Shaun Kenny-Dowall (any suggestions of a conspiracy against hyphenated names was quickly shot down by the inclusion of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck) will be stung by having to watch Friday's Test from the stands/lounge room like the rest of us. Expect them to come out firing when they resume NRL proceedings against the Tigers.
4. Titans (4)
We keep waiting for the Titans to fall off the wagon, and the Gold Coast boys just keep on truckin'. Their triumph over the Tigers at Leichhardt, where the home side traditionally grows an extra 17 legs, is the Titans' fourth away win of the year, giving them the best road record in the comp (4-1). They only missed out on finals footy by two points last year, and it was away results that cost them (they were 4-7 on the road last year), so you can excuse John Cartwright for putting his feet up this rep weekend with just a hint of a smile on his dial.
5. Broncos (6)
It's hard to find fault in a performance that makes up one half of the best game of the year but while the Broncos were hard done by the whistleblowers, as with previous losses this year to the Chooks and the Titans they should've closed out the win against Souths. The lacklustre final set, where Andrew McCullough and Ben Hunt never looked like engineering a genuine shot at field goal, was an experience the team's youngsters will learn from. Rest assured the Broncos of 2013 would not have clawed their way back into that match, and given the form of teams around them and their position at the top of rather large pile of teams with 4-4 records, a climb up the ladder is justified.
6. Souths (8)
The Bunnies were up 14-0 with just under half an hour gone, and then conceded the next 22 points in Brisbane before staging a late fightback. Michael Maguire must've been having Vietnam-style flashbacks to last year's preliminary final when Manly blew them out of both the water and a grand final berth. This Broncos side is no Manly, but to get the two points in such thrilling fashion will be made all the sweeter by the match-winning plays coming from the next generation: Reynolds, Koroisau, Auva'a and big Georgie Burgess. Oh and some bloke named Inglis apparently did something memorable again.
7. Storm (5)
The rep season is upon us and based on history the Storm haven't got enough competition points squirrelled away to get them through the tough weeks ahead without Slater, Cronk and Smith when Origin duty calls. Combined with the type of defensive lapses that led to Shaun Johnson's match-winning try, sealing the Storm's fourth loss in five starts, and Craig Bellamy's men could be in for a particularly lean winter.
8. Tigers (7)
A couple of weeks ago the Tigers out-Manly'd Manly with a dominant forward display in the wet at Leichhardt, so it was a surprise to see the Titans pull their pants down on the same ground in the same conditions. The loss of Robbie Farah is obviously starting to be felt in Tiger Town, but after a bright start their young pack needs to ensure they continue to support the in-form Aaron Woods, whose 132 running metres made him the only Tigers forward besides Kiwi debutant Martin Taupau (104m) to crack the ton against the Titans.
9. Eels (9)
It was always going to be a tough ask for the Eels to pick themselves up after the last-gasp loss to the Tigers last Monday, and Brad Arthur's men needed a short turnaround heading into the NRL's longest road trip like an insomniac needs a triple espresso for a nightcap. Regardless, completing just 15 of 28 sets is unacceptable for any first-grade side, though there's no definitive word on whether Tim Mannah's burst ear drum was the result of a Ricky Stuart-esque tirade from the rookie coach.
10. Cowboys (13)
The plaudits for the Cowboys' most impressive performance to date this year have largely gone the way of Johnathan Thurston and his latest sidekick Ray Thompson, and rightfully so with the Cowboys halves looking very slick in running roughshod over the Eels. But any playmaker worth his salt will tell you it's the big men who make or break a half's game, and the efforts of James Tamou (178 metres from 19 runs) and Matt Scott (120 metres and 35 tackles) went a long way to securing the big win.
11. Panthers (10)
Penrith continued with their yo-yo impression that must be frustrating Ivan Cleary to no end with a loss to Cronulla, yet again following up a hard-fought win with a loss that so easily could have had go the other way. Their attack was always going to take time to gel this season with a new halves pairing and the addition of Jamal Idris out wide, but the fact they're ranked 14th for points scored with a third of the season gone – with no obvious solution to the problem – is surely a cause for concern.
12. Dragons (11)
While they share the same 4-4 record as a number of sides in the mid-table logjam, a look at who the Dragons have beaten takes the gloss off a start many Red V fans would've taken when shaking the magic eight-ball back in the first week of March. Wins over the troubled Warriors (twice) and the Sharks should be taken with a grain of salt, readily available in the form of losses to the Broncos, Rabbitohs and now the Roosters where the Dragons were never in the hunt.
13. Knights (14)
Drew an incredible amount of inspiration from the surprise appearance of injured teammate Alex McKinnon in the sheds before they took on the Dogs, and produced a performance that would've seen them trump most any other team in comp. It's a brave team that can aim up when being put through the emotional wringer so often, but wins are wins, and the Knights now only have two to show for their efforts after the first eight rounds.
14. Warriors (15)
Konrad Hurrell stands 183cm tall, weighs 106 kilos and resembles an extremely fast, highly skilled, runaway Kelvinator fridge. For the Warriors' sake you'd hope they hang onto him, because as evidenced against the Storm, when he's in the right headspace he's brilliant to watch and can more than match it with the best. Just like his teammates, how to produce that type of destructive form week-in, week-out is the club's great unsolvable riddle.
15. Sharks (16)
That's more like it Sharkies. As their stars are starting to get back on the paddock, and just as importantly get some miles in their legs, the backs-to-the-wall win over the Panthers will do their confidence a world of good. Putting it bluntly Cronulla wouldn't have got that result a couple of weeks ago if they had lost attacking conductor Todd Carney with less than a quarter of the match gone, but led by hard heads Gallen, Graham and Robson they toughed it out and picked up an invaluable two points for their efforts.
16. Raiders (12)
You've gotta feel for Shaun Fensom. The poor bloke could probably tackle a selector out of the path of an oncoming bus and still not crack a rep jumper, and now he's got the Raiders' 100-club curse to deal with in a couple of months. Exhibit A: Josh McCrone's 100th game last year – Canberra get belted 68-4. Exhibit B: Glen Buttriss's 100th at the weekend – the Green Machine decide the team bus is just too nice to get off, and are consequently down 42-4 at oranges against Manly. And Exhibit C: Poor old Fenno, sitting not-so pretty on 91 career caps…