Produced their best display of the year in the biggest game thus far, though a word of caution for the cardinal and myrtle; you've been burnt before by impressive late-season showings that aren't replicated when the stakes are raised. On a par with their forwards dominance and the brutal defence was the effort of Issac Luke, who showed the spark of old that's been dulled slightly since his return from injury.
2. Sea Eagles (1)
The defensive resolve they showed against the massive Bunnies pack, particularly without veteran centre Steve Matai for all but six minutes, would have been enough to drag them through against most sides. Will be good for the tune-up and a game played at genuine finals intensity.
3. Roosters (3)
Hung on against the Titans and kept their top-four spot as a result, though only by the skin of their teeth. Their 16 errors were admittedly committed in greasy conditions, but the Roosters make the second most mistakes in the comp, hardly the type of stat for Trent Robinson to whack up on the fridge, or have the rest of the competition shaking in their boots.
4. Cowboys (5)
It's incredible to think a side with a 2-8 away record can find themselves in the top four, but that's exactly what the Cowboys did until the Roosters leapfrogged them again on Monday, for the first time in over two years mind you. Couldn't have done it in much better style, cranking out 64 points, 12 tries, 14 line breaks and the club's biggest ever victory – bettering a 60-8 drubbing of the Rabbitohs back in 2003.
5. Panthers (7)
It doesn't matter who it is pulling on the black jumper, and with a mounting injury toll there's new faces every week, Ivan Cleary's men keep turning up for each other in defence, and doing enough in attack to keep the pages turning in the feel good story of the NRL year.
6. Warriors (6)
Some worrying old habits – namely the risky passes and flaky defence of previous Warriors outfits – saw them almost rumbled for one of the upsets of the year, but held on for 50 scoreless minutes to keep the Sharks out. Shaun Johnson is a likely starter next week against the Knights, and should provide the direction his forwards lacked in his absence.
7. Storm (4)
Led for the entire 80 minutes against the Knights and always looked to have them pegged, but somehow head home without the two points. Sisa Waqa can feel particularly aggrieved by the Knights last-minute theatrics, he's the first bloke to bag four meat pies in a loss since Brett Morris did so in the Dragons 24-20 loss to the Cowboys in 2009.
8. Broncos (10)
Muscled up to the Bulldogs' big men and the two Bens in the halves had their best games in weeks, all of which added up to a healthy and much-needed win. Still outside the eight and anything but another win will have their finals hopes in peril, so they need to reproduce against a Rabbitohs outfit that plays a similar style to the Bulldogs... just much, much better.
9. Eels (9)
Took their home game against the Raiders to Darwin, following the leads of the Titans in 2013 and the Roosters a year earlier, and went one better in returning home with two vital competition points, though again forced to rely on some Jarryd Hayne brilliance to get them over the line, and you have to wonder whether they would have bagged recent wins against competition stragglers Gold Coast, Cronulla and Canberra without him.
10. Bulldogs (8)
Des Hasler's plate is piling up fast. This week there's judiciary with Josh Reynolds, there's the five-eighth that needs to be found to replace him, the superglue that needs to be applied to his players mits after 31 errors in their last two games and the goal line defence that held off 105 kilo Broncos second-rower Corey Oates as though he was the second coming of Joey Johns. Oh and avoiding a fifth straight loss for the first time in his career since 2005.
11. Dragons (11)
Again let down by a kicking game that relieved pressure at crucial moments and an attack that lacked composure with the game in the balance. They're still a relatively young side, particularly up front, and struggle to go up a gear when the pressure's on; which they will feel from here on out with only four straight wins likely to be enough to see them into the finals.
12. Knights (15)
After everything the Knights and their faithful have been through this year, they deserved nothing more than to see Kurt Gidley's post-siren, sideline conversion sail between the uprights to a clinch a win they never really looked like pulling off. Haven't deserved the wooden spoon based on their efforts this year, and the two points they pinched off of Melbourne should see them avoid it.
13. Titans (13)
"We've had the world to play for; the fans, the club, the coach and still tossed up rubbish" – you get the feeling Luke Bailey's never minced a word in his life, and he pulled no punches as the Titans' finals hopes officially died a soggy death in John Cartwright's final game. Can always be counted on to put in the effort, but haven't scored more than 22 points since Round 5 and just do not have the firepower to be anything but nuisance value over the final four weeks.
14. Sharks (15)
By all rights could have rolled over with only 36 per cent of first-half possession and an extra 82 tackles heaped on top of the 16-6 score line. That they didn't says much about the character of James Shepherd's side. That Andrew Fifita is out for the year after battling on bravely with a broken arm is a cruel summary of the Sharks year, where seemingly anything that could go wrong, has.
15. Tigers (12)
The club has spent the last two weeks shooting themselves in the foot, so what better time for Robbie Farah to take aim at CEO Grant Mayer with a bazooka in a 'tell-all' interview than two days out from a must-win clash? Missing eight regular first graders, the Tigers fired off one final round when they let the opening kick-off go dead, and then handed the gun over to an obliging North Queensland, who put 64 through them in prompt time.
16. Raiders (16)
After their insipid defensive effort against the Warriors, credit where it's due for their inspired turn-around against the Eels, holding up a couple of certain tries in the second half and repeatedly repelling a Parramatta offense with more than a few tricks up its sleeve. Host the Dragons – who haven't won in Canberra since 2000 – this week and stand a good shot of keeping it that way if they produce the same commitment in front of their beleaguered fans.