NRL Power Rankings: Round 6
The Dragons and Sea Eagles continue to thrive while a couple of big guns suffer surprise defeats and the Storm keep on winning. Here's how we rank the NRL's 16 clubs at the end of the third round of the 2017 Telstra Premiership season.
1. Storm (Last week: 1)
Melbourne have held top spot in these rankings since the start of the year, and five weeks into the season they're the only undefeated team in the NRL. On Saturday night they faced an excellent Panthers team and were forced to defend their own line for much of the second half – and yet they not only won, but won comfortably. Their 28-6 victory was their biggest of the season so far and shows once again why they're the league's frontrunners.
2. Cowboys (Last week: 4)
Four wins from five games is a bright start to the season for the Cowboys, who were a class above the Rabbitohs in Townsville. Lachlan Coote was superb in his return from injury, kicking a 40/20 and laying on a try with a brilliant tap-on to Gideon Gela-Mosby. The Cowboys still have another gear or two in them but at this stage of the season they're travelling along nicely.
3. Roosters (Last week: 2)
A Dylan Walker runaway try ended the Roosters' four-game winning streak on Friday. An injury to firebrand front-rower Dylan Napa makes matters worse for Trent Robinson's men, but with Kane Evans and Sio Siua Taukeiaho still to return from injury in the coming weeks they remain a premiership force.
4. Dragons (Last week: 5)
Are they the real deal? The Dragons started the season as wooden spoon contenders with a notoriously bad attacking record, but after five games they've scored more points than any other team in the league. They also boast the second-best defensive record, after Melbourne, and sit in second place on the NRL ladder. It's too early to speculate whether they're a finals certainty, let alone a top-four chance this year, but Paul McGregor's men are stunning the critics at the moment.
5. Broncos (Last week: 3)
The Broncos have endured a month of close finishes and have ended on the wrong side of three of them, losing by three points away to the Bulldogs after three straight results decided by two points or less. They have the toughest start to the season of any team in the league and that continues with Thursday night's clash against the Roosters.
6. Raiders (Last week: 7)
It was the Raiders of old on Saturday, with Joey Leilua and Jordan Rapana back to their best on the right flank and Jarrod Croker racking up another record with his 100th NRL try. It's still only their second win of the year and Ricky Stuart insists they won't blow teams away on a regular basis in 2017, but they'll take a comfortable victory over a fellow finals contender like the Eels any day.
7. Sharks (Last week: 6)
It was the reigning premiers up against the reigning wooden spooners on Saturday but it certainly didn't look like it in the final 10 minutes, with the Sharks having blown a 12-point lead to allow their opponents back into the contest. James Maloney's field goal won the game and saved Cronulla's blushes but they'll need to improve significantly against the stronger sides.
8. Sea Eagles (Last week: 10)
Manly enter our top eight on the back of three straight upset wins, over the Cowboys, Bulldogs and now the Roosters. Friday night's victory over the Tricolours wasn't as emphatic as their 22-point thumping of North Queensland or their 36-0 thrashing of Canterbury, but was arguably more impressive considering the strength of their previously undefeated opponents. Something has definitely clicked for Trent Barrett's men after their two early losses at home and their battle with the Dragons will be an intriguing one this week.
9. Panthers (Last week: 8)
Penrith played pretty well in a high quality clash in Melbourne on Saturday night, and yet finished on the wrong end of a one-sided 28-6 scoreline. They'll welcome back Bryce Cartwright in the coming weeks which should bring a welcome boost to their attack, but even without the ball-playing back-rower the Panthers should have too much for the Rabbitohs this week.
10. Bulldogs (Last week: 12)
With their backs to the wall and their coach under pressure, the Bulldogs lifted and produced a hard-earned win over title contenders Brisbane at a rain-soaked ANZ Stadium. James Graham led from the front with an inspirational effort – encapsulated by his try-saving tackle on Broncos winger Corey Oates – while Josh Reynolds was another standout amidst speculation over his future at the club. Canterbury have lost three games this year but they've been against three of the hottest teams in the league in the Storm, Roosters and Sea Eagles so there's no need to panic just yet.
11. Eels (Last week: 9)
Parramatta's season has been a mirror image of Manly's – the two teams met in Round 1 with the Eels prevailing and have had the opposite results since then, with Parramatta winning again in Round 2 but losing their next three while the Sea Eagles enjoyed a stunning form reversal. The Eels have lost their last three by at least two converted tries and alarm bells will start to sound if they lose against the struggling Warriors this week.
12. Warriors (Last week: 14)
Kieran Foran's long-awaited club debut came with a win, but they only just managed to get past an injury-ravaged Titans side in Auckland. There's still a lot of improvement in them but with Foran now in action, Shaun Johnson scoring his third try of the season and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck showing glimpses of his best there are finally some genuine signs of promise at the Kiwi club.
13. Titans (Last week: 11)
The number of players in the Gold Coast casualty ward has hit double figures, with the Titans seriously unlucky on the injury front this year. Few clubs have the depth to cope with that kind of injury haul and the Titans are one of them, with just one win from five games now.
14. Rabbitohs (Last week: 13)
It was a bad night for Robbie Farah on Friday, relegated to the bench against the Cowboys, then suffering a back injury, and then seeing his team beaten by 14 points. If Souths lose their big-name recruit for a few weeks it will be more bad news for a team that has been hit by a few injuries and suspensions early in the year and is struggling for form as a result.
15. Knights (Last week: 16)
With only 40 per cent of possession away from home against the reigning premiers, the Knights could have been expected to be out of the contest by half-time – especially after last week's heavy defeat against Penrith. Instead, Newcastle defied the heavy defensive workload to score two late tries and level the scores in the final 10 minutes before being pipped by a single point. A brave effort, and enough to lift them off the bottom of our rankings.
16. Wests Tigers (Last week: 15)
The arrival of Ivan Cleary as their new coach is the big news of the week, happily overshadowing Sunday's 28-6 loss to the Dragons – their fourth on the trot. The only way is up for the Tigers and in Cleary they have a coach that can help take them there.