NRL Power Rankings: Round 11
There has been movement among the top four teams, while the Titans are defiantly continuing their charge towards the top 8 and an NRL finals berth.
1. Cowboys (Last week: 4)
Yes, the Sharks are now top of the NRL ladder and the Storm were their usual efficient selves on Monday night, but after yet another one-point thriller between the league's two Queensland giants it's hard not to put the Cowboys and Broncos at the top of the tree this week. This time it was North Queensland who prevailed in what was the third match-up in a row against Brisbane decided by a field goal, with Johnathan Thurston's right boot the deciding factor as it was in last year's grand final.
2. Broncos (1)
Beaten by the Cowboys in a game that started slowly but ended like another classic, the Broncos could have retained top spot if Anthony Milford was able to kick what would have been his fifth field goal of the season to send the game into extra-time. Instead, the Broncos will be left reeling after blowing an 18-6 lead and must now take on the Wests Tigers without their State of Origin stars ahead of Origin I.
3. Storm (2)
Ignore the fact they've slid down a spot on our list, any of these top four sides could beat any other on their day, and the Storm were strong again on Monday night to beat a desperate Eels side in Parramatta. They've now won five straight and share the competition lead with Cronulla.
4. Sharks (3)
The winning streak continues for Cronulla, who are now firing on all cylinders with Andrew Fifita back to his best up front and returning to the Origin fold. They have the bye this week but will face a new challenge with Fifita, James Maloney and Paul Gallen adding NSW Origin duties to their workload over the next couple of months.
5. Bulldogs (5)
Too good for the Roosters on Sunday, the Bulldogs remain the best of the rest in the NRL and are chasing a third straight win for the first time this season. They didn't miss a beat without Will Hopoate in the backline while Josh Reynolds produced one his best performances of the campaign so far.
6. Raiders (9)
Their opposition weren't at their best but Canberra made the most of their opportunities with a dominant 38-12 win over the Warriors in New Plymouth. Blake Austin showed glimpses of the form he showed last season – particularly during his strong solo try – while Jarrod Croker is the NRL's leading point-scorer once again.
7. Rabbitohs (10)
Their ball control wasn't great against the Dragons (the Burgess brothers made more errors than the entire St George Illawarra team) but Souths had the spark in attack to run away with a handy win. Adam Reynolds secured the NSW Origin jersey if he hadn't already with a strong kicking performance in general play and the Rabbitohs are two-from-two since switching Greg Inglis to five-eighth.
8. Eels (6)
Kieran Foran's return and home ground advantage wasn't enough to get the Eels home against an impressive Storm side on Monday, and their finals hopes are now all but over following back-to-back defeats and 12 competition points set to be docked from their tally next month.
9. Titans (11)
Another terrific result for the Titans last weekend, with Ashley Taylor – the third-string half at the club at the start of the season – stealing the show with a man-of-the-match performance against the Panthers in Penrith. At this rate the Gold Coast side are a genuine chance of sneaking into the finals this year.
10. Panthers (7)
Yet another close game for the Panthers ended with disappointment, with Penrith somehow letting victory slip through their fingers after conceding two tries in the last five minutes against the Titans. A season-ending injury to Peta Hiku is a further blow. The next big question: what effect will the experience of State of Origin football have on Matt Moylan's NRL performances, if any?
11. Dragons (8)
Paul McGregor's men controlled the ball well against Souths but didn't have enough strike in attack to make the most of it, eventually run down in the final quarter of the game when the Rabbitohs got their act together.
12. Roosters (12)
The Roosters were caught on the hop on Sunday afternoon, down 18-0 after 35-minutes against the Bulldogs. They never really got back into the contest and remain in second-last place on the ladder, four competition points adrift of the 14th-place Warriors.
13. Sea Eagles (13)
Manly showed plenty of fight against the now league-leading Sharks, fighting back from 12-0 down to lock up the scores before Cronulla secured the win inside the final 10 minutes. Young gun Tom Trbojevic also showed off his versatility, doing well in the centres after having impressed at fullback and on the wing in his NRL career so far. Like the teams above them on this list, they remain in the race for finals football.
14. Wests Tigers (14)
There were danger signs for the Tigers when they trailed against the last-placed Knights at Campbelltown with 20 minutes left, but a couple of late tries saved their blushes. It was a good win in the end considering star men Robbie Farah and James Tedesco were on the sideline but they'll need to be at their best against the Broncos on Friday night, even with Brisbane missing a few Origin stars.
15. Warriors (15)
Another bad performance in New Zealand has the pressure mounting on Andrew McFadden and his players again. Three Canberra tries came directly from Warriors handling errors, and the game was all but over at half-time with the scoreline reading 22-0. They have a bye in Round 12 but the Warriors can expect a tough couple of weeks on the training paddock.
16. Knights (16)
There was a lot of improvement in Newcastle's performance against the Tigers, with coach Nathan Brown giving some praise to his inexperienced props in particular. In truth, improved performances are all Knights fans can really look forward to this season with wins set to be a rarity.