Power Rankings: Round 13
1. Sea Eagles (3)
Returned to the winners' circle in fine fashion with an emphatic win over the Bulldogs, and there's plenty for Geoff Toovey's men to hang their hat on as they rest up for their second bye in the space of a month. The maroon and white can take their pick from an 86 per cent completion rate on a miserable night at Brookie, the way their pack outpointed the biggest boppers in all of NRL Land, or the composure shown by the side to close out the win with the Dogs sniffing a comeback as Daly Cherry-Evans disappeared up the tunnel.
2. Roosters (2)
Still not there yet but they're getting closer the Chookies, they're getting closer. Their second win in Melbourne in nine visits has them sneaking into the top four ahead of the Rabbitohs by a solitary for-and-against point. Given the NRL's finals system makes it extremely difficult to claim the premiership gong from outside the first four places, healthy differential boosters like the premiers' 20-point win at the weekend could make all the difference in another 13 rounds time.
3. Bulldogs (1)
No side of Des Hasler's will ever be seriously in danger of believing its own hype, and two 20-point defeats in their last two games will have the Bulldogs' heads down and backsides firmly up out Belmore way this week. The Brookvale quagmire looked made for the big Dogs' pack, but plenty of second-half errors cruelled their chances of getting back into the match and will ensure the basics get a solid workout at Bulldogs HQ before a western Sydney showdown against Parramatta.
4. Rabbitohs (4)
One half of football does not a season make, but should the Red and Green faithful be given their first premiership to celebrate since the days of Sattler and McCarthy this year they could well point to their second 40 against the Warriors in Perth as the making of this side. Skipper John Sutton stood tallest alongside Dylan Walker – who would look pretty damn good in a sky blue jumper incidentally – as the Bunnies turned an eight-point deficit and a worrying injury toll that included attacking lynchpin Greg Inglis into their most impressive performance in 2014 to date.
5. Panthers (7)
"No one hands out bouquets for halfway," was the dry assessment of Penrith coach Ivan Cleary in the wash-up of their 36-14 thumping of the Titans on their own turf, but things are looking very rosy indeed out west. The side from the foot of the mountains now sits top of the ladder for the first time since 2004, and while they only spent a solitary week in pole position a decade ago, with a home game against the Dragons running into the bye the chocolate soldiers should make themselves comfortable at the top of the NRL pile.
6. Broncos (6)
Triple M's Rush Hour had the mother of statistics in the lead-up to their clash with the Raiders, declaring the Broncs had dropped eight of their past 10 games when the thermometer had failed to push above 13 degrees. After a tense opening 20 minutes and the mercury refusing to crack double figures, things could have turned sour for the marauding Northerners in Canberra, but they maintained their composure and showed enough class to bag two of the tougher competition points going around.
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7. Storm (5)
Discounting the five months they spent rooted to the bottom of the competition in 2010 due to salary cap rorting, the Storm have spent just 10 weeks outside the top eight in 10 years as the most consistent team of the past decade. And half of those have now come in 2014 with their loss to the Roosters leaving Melbourne in ninth and on a slippery slope. The loss of stars Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater was again keenly felt against the premiers, who they kept honest for much of the contest but never really threatened without their heavy artillery.
8. Eels (9)
In 2009 Jarryd Hayne won the Dally M Medal with 30 points, courtesy of an unprecedented run between Rounds 19 and 24 when he claimed the maximum three points in every match. What makes those numbers even scarier is the fact he's capable of cantering past that mark in 2014, already bagging 21 points with the season only halfway gone, adding another three with a try and the now almost customary five-star performance against the Cowboys.
9. Cowboys (8)
Believe it or not the Cowboys had actually started to turn around their abysmal record in the Harbour City in 2013, breaking even with three wins and three losses on Sydney turf before being bundled out of the finals in controversial circumstances. It's by no means a world-beating record, but a damn sight better than the four wins from 16 games the Cowboys have played in Sin City in the previous four years. With Paul Green's men sitting outside the top eight and facing four matches in Sydney across the second half of the season, they need to recapture that 2013 ability to win away from their Townsville homestead or they'll be spending the entire month of September twiddling their thumbs.
10. Tigers (12)
They're at the opposite ends of their careers, but the Tigers can thank the kicking boots of 19-year-old Luke Brooks and 32-year-old Pat Richards for sneaking them home in Newcastle. Brooks's game-changing 40/20 in the 65th minute was the cherry on top of a series of composed dinks into the left corner and grubbers over the sideline that gave the Tigers the best possible shot at closing out the match, with Pat Richards obliging with five from five off the tee and a casual 30-metre field goal from near the sideline.
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11. Warriors (11)
Looked for all money like they'd blow the Rabbits out of the water with a 14-6 lead with just over 20 minutes to go and Greg Inglis out of action, but ran out of puff with the longest road trip in the game clearly taking its toll after an impressive start. As with any Warriors side they provided plenty of highlights – their play of the day is still a toss-up between David Fusitu'a's acrobatic touchdown and the 89 kilo Shaun Johnson dropping Sam Burgess like a 116 kilo sack of spuds – and they'll appreciate the week off after they traverse the 5,343 kilometres back to home base from Perth.
12. Titans (10)
Some familiar and worrying signs up on the holiday strip, with the customary mid-season slump from John Cartwright's men well and truly in full swing now that they haven't drank from the winner's cup since before the City-Country clash six weeks ago. And a second-half completion rate of just 56 per cent was always unlikely to turn things around against the Panthers when they're already registering the fewest try assists (16) and line breaks (25) in the comp.
13. Dragons (16)
A six tries to zip scoreline is nothing to be sniffed at in the NRL, but the Dragons and their faithful won't be chirping too loud given the first win of Paul McGregor's coaching career in the top grade came against a Sharks side a few cards short of a full deck. Likewise the performances of big guns Benji Marshall (a hand in five tries and three line break assists) and Josh Dugan (three tries and two line breaks) should be taken with the largest grain of salt you can find with an away trip to Penrith a far more accurate barometer of whether there are still genuine signs of life in the Dragons season.
14. Knights (14)
They were more desperate than a fat kid at the back of the tuckshop queue with the game in the balance on home turf, though the decision to decline a kick at goal late in the game to save time was a roll of the dice that didn't need to be made considering the clock now switches off in the final five minutes. A much-needed win should fall into the sooner rather than later basket given the effort they're putting in, but it's hard to like their chances against the resurgent premiers this week.
15. Sharks (13)
With 13 first-graders out and a 30-0 defeat to a struggling Dragons outfit the Sharks resembled a NSW Cup side in more ways than one. They've been held scoreless now for 189 minutes of football and never really looked like rectifying that sorry statistic as captain Wade Graham was the only player to record a line break against a Red V defence that had previously conceded an average of 34 points in its last four games.
16. Raiders (15)
If ever there was a tonic for the sickly shade of green the Raiders' season is turning, Monday night footy against a side that had won just once in its last seven visits to the nation's capital was it. But at the end of one of those weeks, coming at the end of one those months, the fact the Green Machine ended up with one more try than they did signings is a very average but pretty apt consolation for Ricky Stuart and his men after another listless performance in front of their home fans.