NRL Power Rankings: Round 13
The Broncos slip up, the Titans' rise continues and things just get worse for the Sea Eagles and Parramatta.
1. Cowboys (Last week: 1)
A straightforward 30-point thrashing for the reigning premiers this week, at home to the Knights, in what was a pretty comfortable way to back up from State of Origin I. Next Monday's blockbuster against the Sharks in Cronulla looms as a much tougher test.
2. Storm (2)
Outclassed Penrith 24-6 on Saturday with both Queensland stars Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk playing the full 80 minutes and thriving. They're the real deal this season but have a tricky fortnight coming up against a resurgent Roosters side next week and then a match against the Dragons while Smith and Cronk will be away in Maroons camp.
3. Sharks (4)
The Sharks will jump to No.1 in these rankings if they can beat the Cowboys in Cronulla next Monday night, having got past the Bulldogs at the death in the final game of Round 13. That was their ninth straight victory and has them at the top of the table, shading the Storm on for-and-against. Are they on track to finally end their premiership drought?
4. Broncos (3)
The bad news? The Brisbane Broncos have now lost three straight, and now sit six competition points behind the league leaders. The extenuating circumstances are that two of those three losses came by a single point and the third – Saturday's defeat in Auckland – came with four players backing up from Origin and two more sitting out the game altogether.
5. Raiders (5)
Canberra got the job done against an injury-hit Manly outfit on Friday night and more importantly did it while leaving out regular faces Paul Vaughan and Shaun Fensom, with new signing Junior Paulo looking the goods in his Raiders debut. Ricky Stuart's men already looked strong across the park and now they have the kind of depth (in the forwards in particular) most clubs can only dream of.
6. Bulldogs (6)
Came within a whisker of beating the high-flying Sharks on Monday night but instead slumped to their sixth loss of the season, in a match that pretty much sums up their "good but not quite good enough" start to the 2016 campaign.
7. Titans (9)
The Titans' fairly stunning run of form continues, with Ashley Taylor coming up trumps again with a field goal to sink the Rabbitohs in Perth. Not many observers outside of the Gold Coast would have predicted this team would have even been in the finals race this year, let alone inside the top eight at the halfway mark of the season.
8. Rabbitohs (7)
Beaten by the Titans in Perth, the Rabbitohs have a losing record after their first dozen games of the season and sit outside the NRL eight despite boasting arguably the game's best forward, the NSW halfback, superstar Greg Inglis and the increasingly impressive Cody Walker.
9. Roosters (12)
That's more like it. They may still be in 15th place on the ladder but in wet conditions on Sunday the Roosters started to look like the top-eight contenders they really should be this season, despite being without the services of injured halfback Mitchell Pearce. There's still every chance they've left their run too late but they should win more than they lose from here on in.
10. Panthers (10)
Beaten by the Storm in Melbourne, Penrith have a tricky run of games coming up against fellow middle-of-the-road teams Manly, Souths and the Wests Tigers that could be crucial to their finals chances, ahead of matches against big guns Cronulla and Brisbane.
11. Dragons (11)
Enjoyed the bye in Round 13, keeping them level on competition points with top-eight sides the Bulldogs and Titans.
12. Eels (8)
With star half Kieran Foran out for the season, 12 competition points likely to be stripped in the coming weeks and former Eels stars like Junior Paulo and Nathan Peats thriving at new clubs already, it hasn't been a great time for the Parramatta club of late.
13. Warriors (15)
Shaun Johnson and Tui Lolohea fired in a crucial win over the Broncos on Saturday to revive the Warriors' finals hopes and keep the critics at bay. The fact the bookies have them as seventh favourites to win the premiership despite their horror start to the season shows the kind of potential the New Zealanders have at their disposal.
14. Sea Eagles (13)
With just four wins to their name, Daly Cherry-Evans ruled out for a month and more off-field dramas to deal with, the Sea Eagles aren't faring any better in 2016 as they did in 2015.
15. Wests Tigers (14)
James Tedesco is back and scoring tries again but his spark wasn't enough to get his team over the line against the Roosters in horrible conditions.
16. Knights (16)
Saturday's trip to Townsville to face the Cowboys was always going to be a mismatch, and that's the way it proved.