NRL Power Rankings: Round 14
The Cronulla Sharks jump to the top of our power rankings, while there were some big movers in the middle of the pack.
1. Sharks (Last week: 3)
They've won 10 on the trot – including victories over premiership rivals Melbourne, Brisbane and North Queensland – and the Cronulla Sharks are the genuine competition front-runners right now. James Maloney's kicking game again proved vital on Monday night but it's their combination of grit and firepower (see Valentine Holmes' stunning long-range try) that has made them the complete package so far in 2016.
2. Storm (2)
You'd think an away game against last year's minor premiers would be a difficult test, but the super-consistent Storm dusted up the Roosters to the tune of 46-0 in Sydney on Saturday night and seem to just be getting better every week. Cameron Munster was superb and is proof Melbourne won't necessarily be struggling in future seasons when Billy Slater hangs up his boots.
3. Cowboys (1)
A tough loss to a tough side on Monday has the premiers six points adrift of the league leaders, although they remain the only team apart from Cronulla to have a perfect home record this season. They'll welcome their first bye this week.
4. Broncos (4)
In the end the result was closer than it should have been but Brisbane simply blew the Raiders out of the water in the first half on Thursday night to demonstrate the gulf in class between the NRL's top four and the rest. Darius Boyd's excellent season continued with a hat-trick while Wayne Bennett's men should cope reasonably well throughout the rest of the Origin period with byes ahead of the next two Origin matches.
5. Bulldogs (6)
Got the job done against the Dragons with Tony Williams finally producing a performance to match his potential, and will enjoy their first bye of the season this week. The looming return of Brett Morris should be a boost for a club capable of matching the 'big four' if they hit their stride.
6. Raiders (5)
Canberra showed a bit of life in the second half, with bench hooker Kurt Baptiste scoring a handy double, but in truth they were outclassed by Brisbane in the first and still have some improving to do to match the NRL's big guns.
7. Panthers (10)
Eyebrows were raised when James Segeyaro and Jamie Soward were dropped in recent weeks, but after a poor first-half display from the Panthers their new halves combination of Nathan Cleary and Bryce Cartwright clicked into gear in the second to inspire a sensational comeback against Manly. In Cleary and Te Maire Martin the Panthers have two of the most promising young halves in the game and with Cartwright's star on the rise and a couple of current Origin players in the backline we could be seeing the first signs of a bright new era for Penrith.
8. Titans (7)
The Gold Coast were beaten by Parramatta in Darwin to cap an epic road trip following last week's win in Perth, and the Titans will just be relieved to be playing on the Gold Coast again against Manly next Monday.
9. Wests Tigers (15)
After a week in which the Robbie Farah-Jason Taylor saga again grabbed unwanted headlines, the pair both enjoyed some great success in the end with Farah coming off the bench to inspire his team and Taylor masterminding a surprise win over the Rabbitohs. The Tigers' attack in particular was superb and their young squad is capable of being one of the NRL's most entertaining.
10. Warriors (13)
It's difficult to tell how much you should read into a thrashing of the Newcastle Knights these days but it's fair to say the Warriors have rediscovered some of their old mojo, putting 50 points past their opponents in Newcastle a week after scoring 36 against the Broncos. It's just the second time they've tasted back-to-back victories this season, and they should make it three straight when they host the Roosters this week.
11. Dragons (11)
Beaten by the Bulldogs on Sunday, albeit in a game involving one of the weirder tries you'll see, the Dragons are level with four other teams on the edge of the NRL top eight but have easily the worst for-and-against of the lot thanks to the worst attacking record in the competition. They're still well in the race for the finals but you feel they'll need a little luck to get there.
12. Eels (12)
A trip to Darwin probably came as a welcome break for a Parramatta side that must have one eye on the end of the season already, and an enjoyable victory over the Titans was a nice bonus. They still officially sit in fifth place on the NRL ladder but the 12-point salary cap penalty is expected to be handed down by the end of the month.
13. Rabbitohs (8)
Memories of South Sydney being a premiership-winning powerhouse just 18 months ago are fading fast following their latest loss, to the Wests Tigers on Friday night. It came after an early injury to talisman Sam Burgess but the defeat has them stuck in the bottom half of the ladder and facing a tricky game against Parramatta without the services of Adam Reynolds or Greg Inglis.
14. Sea Eagles (14)
Injuries have wreaked havoc on Manly's hopes this season but they should still have been good enough to hold onto a win on Sunday, having led 24-4 early in the second half. Dylan Walker's first-half heroics proved to be for nought though as the Sea Eagles let Penrith back into the contest, and by the time the game got close the Panthers had all the momentum. Back to the drawing board.
15. Roosters (9)
What has happened to the Roosters? Even with Boyd Cordner and Mitchell Pearce in the casualty ward they had three current or former Origin stars plus a New Zealand international in the starting side on Saturday night, and still got walloped 46-0 by Melbourne – their 10th loss in 13 games this season. It must sting even more for Tricolours fans seeing their former five-eighth guide a rival club to 10 straight victories.
16. Knights (16)
Towelled up by the Warriors in another horror defeat, the Knights get a week off to nurse their wounds in Round 14.