Power Rankings: Round 23
1. Rabbitohs (Last Week 1)
More muscle than a 1990s Chinese women's swimming team, and looked mighty impressive flexing it against the poor old Broncos. Michael Maguire would've slept very soundly last Thursday night after Greg Inglis exploded into life with the best individual 80 minutes of the season; if the big fella reproduces that in any of the big games there's not a team in the comp that can match them.
2. Sea Eagles (2)
You could've been forgiven for thinking Manly's 15-12 defeat of the Titans came in the wet rather than the brilliant sunshine of a stunning winter's day on the Gold Coast. Completing at just 63 per cent and finishing with just two tries despite racking up eight line breaks, the maroon and whites' execution was well below their usual top-shelf standard for the second consecutive week, and there won't be much of Geoff Toovey's spleen left to vent if they back it up for a third at Parramatta on Friday.
3. Roosters (3)
Picked a great weekend to produce their most dominant performance since a 56-4 thrashing of Parramatta back in Round 2, putting them in the same ball park as Melbourne in terms of a premiership statement. The Chooks reckon the Bondi Wall is back to its impenetrable best, and while keeping the Tigers scoreless for 70 minutes is a fair effort, the free-wheeling Warriors on their own patch will pose a much sterner test this weekend.
4. Panthers (5)
"He likes the big moments." Ivan Cleary on 23-year-old fullback Matt Moylan. Straight from The Big Book of Understatements by Des Hasler. Matt Moylan doesn't like the big moments, he loves them. Sprinkles them on his Weet-Bix every morning. How else do you explain the fact the kid's now pulled three games out of the fire in his first 18 months at the top level, without even raising a sweat?
5. Cowboys (4)
In it up to their eyeballs against the Panthers but boy that one-point loss could prove costly. Cop the short-turnaround against the rampant Rabbitohs for their troubles, and unless they pull off an unlikely win will likely board their flight back to Townsville outside of the eight.
6. Storm (7)
Craig Bellamy has plenty of highlights to choose from in the analysis of Saturday's ultra-slick 48-4 training run against the Sharks. There's the 178 running metres from prop Jesse Bromwich in the first half alone, the six tries his teammates ran in alongside it, or the single four-pointer they conceded. For us though, it's prop Tim Glasby getting off the dreaded nudie run with his first career double. The Milky Bars are on you this week big man.
7. Warriors (6)
Kept at the Knights gamely despite falling 14-0 behind after half an hour, but needed that loss like a hole in the head. They now find themselves precariously placed on the eighth rung of the NRL ladder, and a tricky Round 26 away trip to Penrith looks likely to determine whether they jag a crucial home semi.
8. Bulldogs (10)
Couldn't have got their first win in a month in more typical Bulldogs fashion. Rumbled it up the middle early, never looked like going wide before the fourth tackle and then held on for a nail-biting two-point win. Straight out of the blue-and-white manual and a repeat against the Tigers should get them another two points and all but tie up a finals berth.
9. Eels (9)
Likewise, didn't stray too far from the usual, with Jarryd Hayne's brilliance almost dragging them over the line in what looked suspiciously like a contest played at finals intensity. But as is the case in finals football, making almost triple the amount of errors (11 compared to the Bulldogs' three) is what cost the Eels the two points, not a ball boy or the contentions 40/20 rule.
10. Broncos (8)
Didn't play all that badly on Thursday night, but 'Hurricane Inglis' left them and their finals hopes looking like the aftermath of a trailer park tornado. Haven't been the same side since Anthony Griffin's dumping was announced and given they need to win their three remaining games, including a Round 26 road trip to Melbourne, he's now set to depart with a second consecutive finish amongst the also-rans.
11. Dragons (11)
Ding dong the hoodoo's dead, and as much as the Dragons assured us they didn't give a flying 4-iron about not winning in the nation's capital and their barren run against the Raiders meant diddly-squat, rest assured; they did and it does. Will be taking a world of confidence into another must-win clash with the Titans on Sunday.
12. Knights (12)
When Chanel Mata'utia crossed for what proved to be the decisive try in the 65th minute against the Warriors, after brother Sione had earlier become the youngest Knight to score a hat-trick and elder sibling Peter had scored the day before for the Dragons – they became the first trio of siblings to score tries in the same weekend of first grade since brothers Ben, Luke and Adam MacDougall in 2003. No wonder there's moves afoot in the Hunter to lure Peter back home alongside the three other Mata'utias (brother Pat's also running around in Newcastle's lower grades).
13. Titans (13)
Plenty of gumption as always, but first on the agenda for Neil Henry – who dollars to doughnuts will be in charge next year – must be adding something, anything to their attack. About as threatening as a mouldy dishcloth at the moment, and unless Darius Boyd ends up on the Gold Coast in 2015, Henry has his work cut out finding the necessary spark amongst the current roster.
14. Sharks (14)
The ASADA storm is reportedly set to hit down Cronulla way and it couldn't have come at a worse time, the same week as their most winnable, and in the context of their wretched season, game in months. Play host to the Raiders and the wooden spoon showdown this Sunday and should be desperate to send them out the door with the game's most infamous piece of cutlery.
15. Tigers (15)
A month ago the Tigers belted the Dogs 46-18, a top eight spot was ripe for the picking and the world was their oyster. And for the sake of Tigers fans, we'll just leave it there. No point dwelling on where it all fell apart for them just yet. Plenty of time for that over the month-long finals series. And the months immediately thereafter.
16. Raiders (16)
Ricky Stuart says the Raiders can't win with their current crop due to their lack of rep stars. No argument there Rick, but it's hardly the type of sign in the window that a passing Brett Stewart or star halfback are going to spy and say to themselves "Yeah Canberra, why not?" Come on Ricky. The place needs leadership, not continual woe-is-us rants.