NRL Power Rankings: Round 5
The Dragons' run continues, Manly keep climbing and the Storm survive a scare at Leichhardt. Here's how we rank the NRL's 16 clubs at the end of the fourth round of the 2017 Telstra Premiership season.
1. Storm (Last week: 1)
Melbourne were awful by their standards in the first half at Leichhardt on Sunday, struggling to control the ball in a game against a fired-up Wests Tigers side with a point to prove after the sacking of their coach. But a typically calm and polished performance in the second half was enough to get Melbourne home 22-14, with Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk pulling the strings and Billy Slater just about flawless at the back. They're still No.1.
2. Roosters (Last week: 2)
Forget 2016, the Tricolours outfit that won three straight minor premierships is back, winning games on the back of a defence that has conceded just two tries in the past fortnight. They were simply too good for old rivals Souths this week.
3. Broncos (Last week: 3)
At last Brisbane have found a way to win a close one, uncovering Jordan Kahu – one of the few reliable field goal kickers at this year's Auckland Nines – as their go-to man when a one-pointer is needed. Kahu kicked the match-winner against Canberra but Andrew McCullough was just as important with 61 tackles in his 200th NRL game, while rejuvenated halfback Ben Hunt again impressed in both attack and defence. Brisbane had a tough month to start the season – taking on the top four teams from 2016 – but have come out the other side and are looking strong.
4. Cowboys (Last week: 4)
Embarrassed by Manly last week, the Cowboys needed to bounce back this week and show they can win without the recently re-signed Jason Taumalolo. Enter powerhouse back-rower Coen Hess, who scored two rampaging tries as North Queensland edged out the plucky Titans, with rep stars Johnathan Thurston and Michael Morgan and dynamic rookies Kalyn Ponga and Gideon Gela-Mosby shining as well.
5. Dragons (Last week: 5)
St George Illawarra's impressive start to the season marches on, with the Red V easily accounting for the Warriors on Sunday night. Paul Vaughan has been a standout in the last couple of weeks and has been an astute addition to one of the strongest forward packs in the league. They'll start warm favourites against the Tigers this Sunday.
6. Sharks (Last week: 8)
A strong win over Parramatta was just what Cronulla needed after last week's loss to the Dragons, with Paul Gallen producing his best performance of the season so far. The reigning premiers haven't claimed back-to-back wins yet in 2017 but that could change when they host the Knights on Saturday. The arrival of James Segeyaro – even if he had limited impact against the Eels – also gives the Sharks a new strike weapon as they look to defend their title.
7. Raiders (Last week: 6)
One win from four games isn't the start the Raiders were hoping for but they came within a whisker of claiming a comeback victory over Brisbane, having come up four points short of fellow Queensland giants the Cowboys in Round 1. Canberra showed against the Tigers in Round 3 what they can do when they fire in attack, and if they can get the better of the Eels this week they could easily string together half a dozen wins.
8. Panthers (Last week: 9)
Penrith have got their act together since their disastrous Round 1 loss to the Dragons, smashing the Tigers and now the Knights on either side of a nail-biting 14-12 loss to premiership contenders the Roosters. They were in full flight against Newcastle, even without star forward Bryce Cartwright, running in seven tries and holding their opponents scoreless – something that would have been particularly pleasing a month after leaking 42 points against the Dragons.
9. Eels (Last week: 7)
Corey Norman returned but the Eels struggled to control the ball against the Sharks and paid the price, beaten 20-6 in their first home game of the season at ANZ Stadium. They're on the road again for the next fortnight with tricky trips to Canberra and Auckland.
10. Sea Eagles (Last week: 12)
So, last week's win over the Cowboys wasn't a fluke. The Sea Eagles were simply superb on Saturday, smashing the Bulldogs 36-0 in a performance that truly showed off their top-eight credentials. Granted, it's still very early in the season, but after a rocky opening fortnight Manly are improving rapidly with Daly Cherry-Evans and Tom Trbojevic forming a deadly combination. Cherry-Evans laid on four first-half tries against the Dogs and is starting to live up to his mega contract with the club.
11. Titans (Last week: 11)
Truth be told Gold Coast did well to get to within six points of the Cowboys at full-time on Saturday night. North Queensland had utterly dominated the early stages, winning the first five penalties of the game and boasting a perfect completion rate in the first half – and yet the Titans somehow hit the front after half an hour. They may not have the star power of other teams but few clubs have more fight in them than Neil Henry's men.
12. Bulldogs (Last week: 11)
Saturday's flogging at the hands of the Sea Eagles was the Bulldogs' first truly bad performance of the season, following two tight losses against the NRL's two unbeaten teams and a win over the Warriors in New Zealand. Still, it will sound some alarm bells at Canterbury with the club sitting in equal last place on the ladder and facing a tough opponent in the Broncos this Thursday.
13. Rabbitohs (Last week: 13)
Souths came up against a red-hot Roosters side this week and couldn't match them, beaten 20-6 at ANZ Stadium on Thursday night. It won't get any easier when they visit Townsville to take on a Cowboys side that will be welcoming back Jason Taumalolo.
14. Warriors (Last week: 15)
Kieran Foran's much-awaited Warriors debut will have to wait a little longer after the star five-eighth suffered a hamstring injury in the warm-up on Sunday, and the Warriors could have done with another Test star in their ranks in their tame 26-12 loss to the Dragons. They'll soon have the Kiwis' international spine at their disposal, but will that be enough to fix the Warriors' old problems?
15. Wests Tigers (Last week: 16)
There's a curious trend in sport when a coach is sacked, with the team more often than not producing a winning effort immediately afterwards – even when it's against the odds. Such a result looked on the cards half an hour into the Tigers' clash with Melbourne on Sunday, with the home side leading 14-0. Alas, it wasn't to be, with the Storm showing their quality in the second half – and making matters worse was a hamstring injury to Tigers halfback Luke Brooks. Their first-half effort was enough to lift them up a spot in our rankings at least.
16. Knights (Last week: 14)
After three rounds of improved performances, the Knights returned to old habits in a 40-0 flogging at the hands of the Panthers on Friday night. The commitment they had showed in the early rounds deserted them at Pepper Stadium, and if they play like that on a regular basis this season a third straight wooden spoon could be heading their way.