Power Rankings: Round 12
1. Bulldogs (1)
Nothing to see here at the top of the power rankings, though the loss of in-form three-quarter Josh Morris would've taken the shine off Des Hasler's bye week.
2. Roosters (4)
Until they face a top class opponent at full strength the jury's still out on whether the premiers are back to their frightening best, but you can only beat what's in front of you and the Roosters have been doing it easy of late, with their past five wins over the Dragons, Tigers, Bulldogs and Raiders coming by an average margin of 19 points. Their move up the rankings is due more to the big defeats suffered by Manly and Melbourne rather than their win over the Raiders, which they really should have turned into a for-and-against cash cow of their own.
3. Sea Eagles (2)
Three poor performances in a row from this Manly outfit have been as rare as sea eagles' teeth over the past five years, so expect Geoff Toovey's men to bounce back after very flat showings against the Broncos and Newcastle in recent weeks. Lacked direction in attack without Daly Cherry-Evans at Suncorp, but the bottom line is they were out-enthused on Sunday and will need to pick themselves up to run with the big Dogs in this Friday night's Brookvale blockbuster.
4. Rabbitohs (5)
Haven't been at their best for the past two weeks but haven't needed to be to get the chocolates. Need to get themselves out of the habit of playing at their opposition's level before blowing them away with 10 or 15 minutes of brilliance. The win over the Dragons was closer to an 80-minute performance, but they were still sluggish for the opening 20 minutes of each half before putting the boot in with three tries in 11 minutes and two more in a five-minute stretch at the hour mark to put the game well and truly out of reach.
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5. Storm (3)
Were on a hiding to nothing heading up to Townsville in the knowledge they'll be without attacking linchpins Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk for a number of weeks, and copped a hiding for their troubles, with a 22-0 scoreline lucky not to be more given the Cowboys were denied four tries by the video ref. Held scoreless for just the second time since the 2008 Grand Final, and life doesn't get any easier for the purple pride when they host the premiers next Sunday.
6. Broncos (7)
If you'd have said this time last year Ben Hunt would be having his measurements taken for a Maroons jumper you'd have been having your own taken for a straightjacket, but such has been the rise of the 2008 NYC Player of the Year that an Origin berth is well within his grasp even if Daly Cherry-Evans recovers from injury in time for Game Two. With a hand in four tries against Manly, and runs on the board coming off the bench in the majority of his 101 top grade games, Hunt would not look out of place in the utility role for Mal Meninga's side.
7. Panthers (8)
As impressive as the Panthers were in putting seven tries past Parramatta, it's their defence that has come on gang busters so far this season – conceding a converted try less each game than they did in 2013 (16 points per game this year versus 22.2 last). Sitting pretty in second place on the ladder without a single player taking part in the Origin slugfest, Ivan Cleary's men have a golden opportunity to lock themselves as a top-eight fixture with games against the injury-hit Titans and struggling Dragons over the next fortnight before a bye in Round 15.
8. Cowboys (9)
Seriously how good is JT? Backing up after one of the most brutal Origins in history, and following revelations after the Anzac Test that he's playing with a busted hip and ankle, Thurston could have been forgiven for taking his foot off the gas in a game the Cowboys were never really going to lose at home against a depleted Storm outfit. But in the 24th minute, Thurston shaped to belt the ball deep into Storm territory only for it to cop a deflection and skew into the back field. Taking off like a headgeared jack rabbit Thurston proceeds to run 30 metres in the time it took Young Tonumaipea (a winger 10 years his junior) to cover 10 to force the youngster into error and give him a lesson in commitment. Champion, plain and simple.
9. Eels (6)
Brad Arthur was always going to need a sense of humour taking the reins at Parramatta, and the Eels hooking crisis is sure going to give it a red hot go in the coming weeks. With buy of the year Nathan Peats to spend the rest of the season on the sidelines with an ACL injury as of Monday, Arthur is searching high and low for a replacement rake, with second-choice option Kaysa Pritchard laid low by a shoulder complaint and Joseph Paulo struggling in the position against the Panthers. Not that it's getting to the rookie coach, who threw his son Jake's name into the mix after some promising form this year for the Rouse Hill Under 12's.
10. Titans (10)
A much-needed and well-earned rest was exactly what the doctor ordered up in Titan town, and John Cartwright's men will welcome the returning cavalry for Saturday night's showdown with the in-form Panthers.
11. Warriors (11)
It's time for yet another investigation folks, and this one's into exactly who are the 17 blokes who turn up every weekend to play in the Warriors' timeslot, and exactly what have they done with the team that was the definition of a basket case and very determined about staying that way just six weeks ago? Suspicions over the alleged identity theft have reached fever pitch on the back of the very un-Warrior like performance at the weekend, where they committed just three errors in 80 minutes of football, alongside reports tough-as-teak skipper Simon Mannering was seen grubbering and regathering for the first of two tries in a rare double-double in his 200th match.
12. Tigers (12)
Two points and Mick Potter breathing a very audible sigh of relief as Robbie Farah and Aaron Woods came out of Origin unscathed.
13. Sharks (15)
Poor old Cronulla can't even get through the bye without copping an injury, with Paul Gallen likely to miss at least a week after aggravating an old neck injury in leading the Blues to victory last Wednesday, though news Andrew Fifita is up and running on the recovery trail from a syndesmosis ankle strain will make the loss of their skipper a little easier for Sharks fans.
14. Knights (13)
Failed to score more than 20 points for the ninth time in 11 hit outs this year, a strike rate nowhere near good enough when you consider the calibre of their playmakers and outside backs. Will have one eye on cheap flights in September given they now need to win at least 10 of their last 13 games to play finals football.
15. Raiders (14)
Never really looked like troubling the Roosters despite completing at 87 per cent in the first half, and only got on the board when the premiers clocked off for the final 20 minutes. For all their strike power out wide – and with Croker, Robinson, Wighton and Milford bagging 28 tries between them this year there's plenty – they just don't have the necessary creativity in the halves to challenge the top teams.
16. Dragons (16)
If State of Origin taught us anything, beyond the fact that Trent Hodkinson wears a training bra, it's that the modern game is geared toward giving your best attacking weapon free reign. Case in point: Jarryd Hayne plays the game of his life at fullback and is the difference between the two sides. Greg Inglis, the only man on the planet capable of matching Hayne's appetite for destruction, just couldn't get enough quality ball when confined to one side of the field. Kudos for trying to shake things up, but Josh Dugan at his best is only a rung below these two superstars , so after a stint at right centre it should be back to fullback for him and back to the drawing board for Mary McGregor and his struggling side.