NRL Power Rankings: Round 25
The Cowboys jump into the top two, the Broncos are back, Melbourne's tricky pre-finals run and the Tigers keep their finals hopes alive.
1. Raiders (Last week: 1)
Canberra solidified their spot atop our power rankings this week with rivals Melbourne slipping up against the Broncos, and are now a chance of snatching a top-two finish on the NRL ladder heading into the finals. The Raiders are the only team in the league to have won their last five.
2. Cowboys (3)
After recovering in recent weeks from a mini form slump, the Cowboys claimed a strong away win against the finals-bound Bulldogs last Thursday and can lock up a top-four finish with a win at home to the Titans this week.
3. Broncos (4)
The Broncos were all but written off a month ago after back-to-back losses to the Panthers and Roosters, but now look like genuine premiership contenders again after stringing together four straight wins – the most impressive coming against the Storm in Melbourne on Friday night. They were intense in defence and fierce in attack against the likely minor premiers and could be hitting top form at just the right time.
4. Storm (2)
Was this week's loss to Brisbane the wake-up call the Storm needed ahead of the finals, or the kind of confidence blow that could derail their campaign? Either way, they can still secure poll position heading into the playoffs with a win over Cronulla on Saturday night. Lose that one, though, and they'll also lose crucial momentum heading into the finals.
5. Sharks (5)
After a winless month of footy the Sharks needed some inspiration against the in-form Roosters this week and they got it in the form of Paul Gallen, who returned from injury with a man-of-the-match performance featuring a try and a match-high 213 run metres. Unlike the Storm they now suddenly have momentum on their side and can claim the minor premiership if they can snatch a win in Melbourne this week.
6. Bulldogs (6)
Despite the fact they've beaten Melbourne and Brisbane this season there's still the nagging feeling Bulldogs are just making up the numbers in the top eight in 2016. In the last couple of months – since that stunning Broncos win – they've beaten five bottom-eight teams and lost their other three games (once against Brisbane and twice against the Cowboys). They should beat Souths this week but can they lift against the top sides come finals time?
7. Panthers (7)
Penrith secured their spot in this year's finals series via a Matt Moylan field goal on the Gold Coast, making this season somewhat of a success already considering the young side is still very much a work in progress. The fact they almost botched a 14-0 lead won't have thrilled their coach too much, but Penrith can at least feel confident they can win the close ones after playing in more than a dozen games decided by six points or less this year.
8. Titans (8)
A one-point defeat against the Panthers at home would have stung badly, but the Titans still have a loose grip on a top-eight finish thanks largely to the Warriors' loss to the Tigers. They can book a finals berth if they can beat the Cowboys in Townsville – about a tough a task as it gets in the NRL – or if the Tigers lose to the Raiders this week.
9. Wests Tigers (15)
They have a for-and-against of -66, are playing a former captain and club legend in reserve grade, and have their star fullback injured on the sidelines – and yet the Wests Tigers could still sneak into the NRL finals with a win this week. A stunning come-from-behind win over a desperate Warriors side in Auckland, thanks to three tries in the final 10 minutes, kept the Tigers' playoff hopes alive – although they'll need to conjure a win against the red-hot Raiders (and for the Titans to lose to the Cowboys) to make the eight.
10. Rabbitohs (10)
Souths have now won three on the trot after cruising past the Knights in Round 25 and they can make it a perfect final month of the season if they can get past the Bulldogs this week. It's been a troubled season but the Rabbitohs can be confident of returning to the top half of the ladder next season.
11. Warriors (9)
Unfortunately they've blown it. With three straight losses the Warriors' finals chances are officially over – a state of affairs that hurts even more considering that a win over the Tigers on the weekend would have made them favourites to take eighth spot.
12. Eels (12)
The future looks bright for Parramatta with the likes of Bevan French and Clint Gutherson running rings around the Dragons on Monday night.
13. Roosters (11)
If the Roosters' recent form had suggested they'd be a top-eight side at full strength, Saturday night's loss to the Sharks shows how far they still are behind the title contenders.
14 Dragons (13)
St George Illawarra's stunning win over the Sharks two weeks ago looks even more like a blip now, considering the Dragons had lost five straight before that game and two straight since. They were outplayed and out-motivated by the Eels for much of the contest on Monday night and have a short turnaround before their final game of the season against the Knights.
15. Sea Eagles (14)
With four straight defeats Manly have the worst losing streak in the league apart from the hapless Knights, and it could stretch to five against a Panthers side warming up for the finals this week.
16. Knights (16)
Don't worry Knights fans, the season is almost over.