Raiders centre Joey Leilua against the Tigers in Round 8.

NRL Power Rankings: Round 8

The Dragons start to climb while the pressure mounts on the Warriors and Wests Tigers two months into the 2016 season.

1. Broncos (Last week: 1)

Another week, another comprehensive victory for the current NRL front-runners. Brisbane demolished the struggling Rabbitohs 30-8 on Friday night and continue to look red hot, with easily the best defensive record in the league. They will face some tough times now though – they'll wait more than a month before their next home game in Round 12, and won't host a game with their Origin stars available until Round 14 in early June.

2. Cowboys (2)

North Queensland were seriously challenged at home by a Parramatta side that had already beaten them once this season, but showed their class to finish strongly and claim what turned out to be a 16-point victory.

3. Sharks (3)

They only just scraped past the Panthers this week, but Cronulla have now won five straight. The only team in the NRL that can match that winning streak is the Broncos – who are the Sharks' Round 9 opponents in what looms as a Sunday afternoon blockbuster.

4. Eels (4)

Were a lot closer to beating the Cowboys than the final 32-16 scoreline suggests, and despite leaking all those points they still sit level with North Queensland as the second-best defensive team in the NRL.

5. Storm (6)

Melbourne were simply superb on Monday night against a struggling Warriors side, holding their opponents scoreless while running wild in attack with 42 points. Their spine is starting to cope without Billy Slater – Cameron Munster and Cooper Cronk both found the tryline and Cameron Smith had three try assists – and they'll be confident of another big win on the Gold Coast this weekend.

6. Bulldogs (5)

After leading 20-8 with 20 minutes left at home to the Titans the Bulldogs did their best to throw away a victory on Saturday, eventually escaping 21-20 in golden point. It continues an erratic season where they have appeared capable of beating or losing to any opponent on any given week, but at least they officially have a home win to their name now.

7. Raiders (7)

Some teams hit cruise control when they have a game in the bag. Not the Raiders, who just kept piling on the pressure on Jason Taylor and his Tigers with a 60-6 demolition in front of a thrilled Canberra crowd last Saturday. They face a tricky few weeks coming up with three straight games on the road.

8. Panthers (8)

The Panthers went close to snatching what would have been an impressive away win against Cronulla, and amazingly after eight rounds six of their matches have been decided by two points or less. They only have three wins to their name but one of those came against the Broncos and they've gone close against the other three teams at the top of these rankings. Young gun Te Maire Martin has been ruled out for the season with a shoulder injury but on the other hand star hooker James Segeyaro is back from injury this week.

9. Sea Eagles (9)

It was a bittersweet game for Manly in Newcastle on Monday – Daly Cherry-Evans returned a week earlier than expected and the Sea Eagles took a comfortable victory, but they also lost two star fullbacks in Brett Stewart and Tom Trbojevic to injury. Trbojevic could be sidelined for a couple of months, and Manly must now face both of last year's grand finalists in the next two rounds.

10. Dragons (14)

Back-to-back wins have the Dragons back in the mix for a finals run, and although they are still struggling to score points by traditional means (an intercept and a mistake from opposition fullback Latrell Mitchell led to two of their tries against the Roosters) they are undefeated at home this year so far.

11. Rabbitohs (10)

South Sydney will be desperate to regain some momentum on Thursday night after losing four of their past five, including heavy defeats against the Bulldogs, Cowboys and Broncos. They are struggling for possession – only the lowly Knights have had less of the ball than Souths this year – and they also rank 15th in the league for run metres with their once powerful pack underperforming in 2016.

12. Titans (11)

Beaten by a point by the Bulldogs despite an impressive late fightback, the Titans continue to over-achieve this season while still looking unlikely to be there come finals time.

13. Roosters (15)

A two-point loss to the Dragons means the Roosters sit in last place on the NRL ladder, but it will be intriguing to watch their potential charge up the ladder now that stars Mitchell Pearce and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves are back, a week after Boyd Cordner's return from injury.

14. Wests Tigers (12)

What a difference a 54-point loss makes. After a two-point defeat in Newcastle and a one-point loss to the Melbourne Storm, the Tigers seemed to be travelling better than their win/loss record suggested before suffering a demoralising 60-6 slaughter in Canberra on Saturday that suddenly has coach Jason Taylor under pressure again. They've now lost six straight.

15. Warriors (13)

Speaking of coaches under pressure, Andrew McFadden's men couldn't even find their customary few tries in a 42-0 defeat in Melbourne on Monday. Unlike the Tigers, the Warriors were tipped by most to be a top-eight contender this year, and while the loss of star fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck has hurt it's their 15th-ranked defensive record that is their real problem this season.

16. Knights (16)

Their "undefeated" home record in 2016 (after a win and a draw) was ended by old rivals Manly on Anzac Day, and the loss of Peter Mata'utia and especially Jarrod Mullen to injury is set to prolong the pain for Knights fans this season. Still, in a season in which Newcastle has one eye firmly on the future it'll be interesting to see how their next young half performs on the big stage in Mullen's place.