NRL Power Rankings: Round 16
The NRL's big four struggled in a post-Origin round but three still escaped with wins as the form sides begin to build towards the back end of the season.
1. Sharks (Last week: 1)
Survived a serious scare to edge the Warriors 19-18 in golden point and hang on to top spot in our power rankings. They weren't at their best but the ability to win the close ones is a handy quality for a premiership contender to have, and with James Maloney's field goal giving them an 11th straight win the Sharks remain the frontrunners.
2. Storm (2)
Like the Sharks, the Storm didn't come away with the dominant victory they may have expected at home in Round 16, but they did get the job done at least. They led 26-0 at half-time but let their opponents back into the contest and saw their lead shrink to six heading into the final 10 minutes, before securing the win with a late Cooper Cronk field goal and Cameron Smith penalty.
3. Cowboys (3)
Another big team that was taken the distance by a less fancied opponent, the Cowboys came away with a narrow 30-26 win over Manly in Townsville on Monday night. They led comfortably at the break but conceded three tries early in the second half, and relied on a couple of late efforts from Test forwards James Tamou and Jason Taumalolo to get them over the line in the end. Still, like the teams above them on this list they both managed to get a complacency wake-up call without having to suffer a loss.
4. Bulldogs (5)
Welcome back Brett Morris. The Kangaroos flyer didn't appear to have lost any of his pace in his long-awaited return from injury, scoring a hat-trick in the Bulldogs' stunning 40-14 rout of an out-of-sorts Brisbane on Saturday night. It's the kind of win that suddenly makes Des Hasler's men look like genuine contenders again, and they should get on a bit of a roll with matches against the Roosters and Tigers coming up.
5. Broncos (4)
Yes they had a group of key players backing up from injury, but the nature of Brisbane's loss to Canterbury continues a horror stretch for the Broncos who have now lost four of their last five. They face the Melbourne Storm next week in another tough contest.
6. Raiders (6)
The Raiders avenged their early-season loss to the Titans in Canberra by beating the Gold Coast 30-22 on Sunday, with Jarrod Croker and Brenko Lee scoring doubles.
7. Panthers (8)
Bryce Cartwright may have some weaknesses in defence (see his lapse for Greg Inglis's try on Friday night) but the Penrith forward-turned-five-eighth can be an irresistible force in attack, laying on three try assists in his team's 28-26 win over the Rabbitohs. The latest in a long line of close results keeps the Panthers inside the top eight for another week.
8. Warriors (9)
They didn't quite get the win they wanted but pushing the league leaders all the way to golden point on their own turf is no mean feat, and after three straight wins the Warriors' strong mid-season run continues.
9. Titans (7)
The Titans were impressive in defeat against the Raiders, playing without Will Zillman and then losing Nathan Davis and Eddy Pettybourne to injuries, while also having Greg Bird sin-binned late in the game. They are still in the finals race but will need luck to start going their way.
10. Dragons (10)
St George Illawarra have finally produced some razzle dazzle, blowing away the hapless Knights early in Saturday afternoon's clash before cruising to a 30-18 win. Sure, their opponents helped make them look good at times but if they can keep up some of that sharpness in attack against stronger sides they'll be well in the hunt for a finals spot.
11. Eels (11)
Had a bye this round, and would have appreciated a week away from the headlines more than most.
12. Wests Tigers (12)
Error-prone and generally poor in the first half against Melbourne, the Tigers showed real fight and genuine class in attack in the second with James Tedesco and Luke Brooks helping to spark a four-try fightback. Alas, it wasn't quite enough. It's the kind of game that pretty much sums up where the Tigers are these days.
13. Rabbitohs (13)
Beaten by the Panthers 28-26 despite a couple of late tries to Sam Burgess, the Rabbitohs' finals hopes are pretty much done and dusted for 2016.
14. Sea Eagles (14)
Manly came within four points of pulling off what would have been one of the upsets of the season against the Cowboys in Townsville, bouncing back from being down 18-4 at half-time to lead 22-18 with less than 20 minutes remaining. Despite letting the win slip through their fingers in the final 10 minutes it should be a confidence-boosting performance for a team that needed one.
15. Roosters (15)
Will get Mitchell Pearce back this week after their second bye of the season.
16. Knights (16)
Nathan Ross's try was pretty great, wasn't it?