NRL Power Rankings: Round 18
Even without their Origin stars the Sharks still can't lose while the Panthers' finals hopes take a hit and Parramatta's Jeckyll-and-Hyde season continues.
1. Sharks (Last week: 1)
Cronulla's most impressive win in their 13-game streak arguably came on Sunday afternoon in Penrith, considering they managed to overcome a finals contender away from home without Origin stars Paul Gallen, James Maloney, Wade Graham, Andrew Fifita and Jack Bird. Ben Barba was the star, turning back the clock with two tries and an assist, while the team showed great depth and defensive grit to get away with what turned out to be a comfortable win. Next up, the Roosters.
2. Storm (2)
After their second bye of the season the Storm will have their fingers crossed that Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk come through Origin III unscathed.
3. Cowboys (3)
There's no real shame in losing an away game to a tough Raiders side with five players – including your starting halves and starting props – missing through injury and Origin duty. On the plus side, youngsters Coen Hess and Josh Chudleigh played well enough to suggest they've got big futures.
4. Bulldogs (4)
It wasn't as easy as some would have expected but the Bulldogs got the better of the Tigers on Saturday night, with Brett Morris picking up another double to continue his post-injury try-scoring spree and Aiden Tolman powering his way to another rock solid 80-minute performance up front.
5. Raiders (5)
Did what was expected of them and beat a weakened Cowboys side on Monday night to edge closer to a top-four spot. They get the bye this week before a couple of very winnable clashes against the Warriors and Rabbitohs.
6. Broncos (6)
With their second bye behind them Wayne Bennett's side will be expecting big improvement when they take on Souths on Saturday night.
7. Warriors (7)
After a terrific run between their two byes – four wins and a one-point loss to the Sharks – can the Warriors continue the momentum against Manly this week?
8. Panthers (8)
There's a lot of potential in this Panthers side. But is that enough? It may be a harsh assessment following a game against the league-leaders but Penrith really should have beaten a weakened Sharks side on Sunday, with or without Matt Moylan and Josh Mansour. Former Super League star Zak Hardaker has made a rusty start to his NRL career and the Panthers remain on the verge of dropping out of the top eight.
9. Titans (9)
The Gold Coast are one of the teams hot on the Panthers' trail after getting their second bye out of the way.
10. Eels (12)
They've now been handed their punishment for salary cap breaches – losing 12 competition points and being hit with a $1 million fine – and captain and star halfback Kieran Foran has said he's walking away from the club. And they're not the only horror headlines surrounding the club this week. Yet despite the off-field turmoil the team keeps getting the job done on the field, fighting back to beat a very decent Roosters side 22-18 on Friday night despite losing Semi Radradra to a knee injury early on. Brad Arthur has certainly proved capable of getting the most out of his team in trying circumstances.
11. Wests Tigers (10)
The Tigers were brave in defeat against Canterbury on Saturday, keeping in touch with their more fancied rivals until late in the game despite being without Origin trio James Tedesco, Aaron Woods and Robbie Farah. They get their second bye this week and are still in the finals race.
12. Dragons (13)
Had the bye this week, and remain well and truly in the finals race despite boasting the second-worst for-and-against in the league.
13. Sea Eagles (11)
Even with a week off Manly managed to suffer another casualty, with Dylan Walker injuring his hand punching a door. Club favourite Brett Stewart will also miss at least six weeks after opting to undergo knee surgery. It's been that kind of season.
14. Rabbitohs (14)
The bye gave Souths some much-needed competition points, but it also means they've now gone almost two months without a win.
15. Roosters (15)
The Roosters were actually pretty good against the Eels on Friday night, with Boyd Cordner impressing in his return from injury, but Corey Norman's heroics cost them in the end. It's still a bit remarkable that a team boasting the amount of talent the Roosters have are sitting in second-last place after 18 rounds.
16. Knights (16)
After the relief of a week off from footy the Knights are set to get more good news with Jarrod Mullen on track for a long-awaited return from injury.