The Cowboys and Roosters slide as Canberra and Cronulla start getting back to their best. Here's how we rank the NRL's 16 clubs at the end of the sixth round of the 2017 Telstra Premiership season.
1. Storm (Last week: 1)
If there's any team that loves a scrap as much as Melbourne it's Cronulla, and the reigning premiers got the better of the Storm in rain-drenched conditions on Sunday. The 11-2 scoreline was a pretty fair reflection of how ugly the contest was at times, but while the Storm will be disappointed to not get the better of their 2016 grand final opponents it was only their first defeat of 2017. Their attack – ranked 13th in the league – is becoming a concern but they remain easily the best defensive side in the NRL and hold onto top spot in our rankings.
2. Broncos (Last week: 5)
Brisbane produced their most dominant performance of the season on Thursday night, and their 32-8 win over the Roosters was all the more impressive considering their opponents had won four of their first five games. The Broncos are much better than their 3-3 record suggests after very narrow defeats to the Cowboys, Storm and Bulldogs and after putting their tough start to the season behind them they have half a dozen very winnable games coming up – even if they're without the injured Ben Hunt.
3. Dragons (Last week: 4)
One of the most intriguing battles of Round 6 was the meeting between two of 2017's early over-achievers, with both the Dragons and Sea Eagles having stunned the critics so far this season. The result? It wasn't even close. St George Illawarra thumped Manly to the tune of 35-10 to join the Storm at the top of the Telstra Premiership ladder. Four of their six games may have come against teams that missed the finals last year but you can only beat who you're up against and with the best for-and-against in the league the Dragons are flying – and this week's clash with the Cowboys comes at the best possible time.
4. Raiders (Last week: 6)
After a mediocre start to the campaign the Green Machine is back, romping over the Titans 42-16 on Saturday with Jordan Rapana running wild on the right wing. Their past month has featured three big wins and a one-point loss to the Broncos in Brisbane. They're in very good form.
5. Sharks (Last week: 7)
Cronulla had been below their best for much of the season but would have been thrilled to come away from Melbourne with a win against the previously undefeated Storm. Their latest recruit James Segeyaro scored the game's only try but their defensive effort in restricting the red-hot Storm to a single penalty goal was what got them over the line.
6. Cowboys (Last week: 2)
North Queensland won the competition a couple of years ago on the back of the remarkable durability of their starting side, which managed to stay on the park practically unchanged for the bulk of the season. That luck with injuries has deserted them this year, with the Cowboys struggling without two crucial members of their spine – Lachlan Coote and Jake Granville – against the last-placed Wests Tigers. Their shock 26-16 home loss hurts, but not as much as the sight of superstar co-captain Johnathan Thurston being helped from the field with a calf injury late in the contest. Playing without their talisman will be as tough a test as the Cowboys have faced in recent years.
7. Roosters (Last week: 3)
After a dream opening month the Roosters have sunk to back-to-back defeats, first at home to Manly and then on the road in Brisbane. They were blown away in the second half by the Broncos, conceding three tries while being held scoreless themselves for the final hour of the match. Expect them to bounce back dramatically against Newcastle this week.
8. Sea Eagles (Last week: 8)
After a stunning three-game winning streak against the Cowboys, Bulldogs and Roosters, Manly were thumped by the Dragons on Saturday and could slide back down the ladder again with matches against powerhouse clubs Melbourne, Canberra and Brisbane looming in the next month.
9. Bulldogs (Last week: 10)
It was closer than the scoreline reflected but the Bulldogs got the job done against Newcastle on Friday night, with tries in the final minute of the first half and the first minute of the second proving the difference. New halfback Matt Frawley impressed once again after being given a chance off the bench, and could be pushing for a starting spot sooner or later.
10. Warriors (Last week: 12)
Kieran Foran is unbeaten as a Warrior so far, helping his side ease to victory over the Eels on Sunday after last week's narrow win over the Titans. They were once the NRL's offload kings but coach Stephen Kearney has the Warriors focused on possession footy this year, and their strong completion rate in the first half in particular laid the foundations for Sunday's win. Equally crucial, skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is getting back to the kind of elusive form that made him a superstar at the Roosters a few seasons ago.
11. Rabbitohs (Last week: 14)
South Sydney took advantage of a weakened Panthers outfit with a solid away win in Penrith this week, with Adam Reynolds staying cool under pressure to slot the match-winning field goal. Reynolds' halves partner Cody Walker has been brilliant for the Rabbitohs and is providing the spark for a team that is otherwise still trying to get back to its best.
12. Panthers (Last week: 9)
Anthony Griffin's decision to drop Matt Moylan, Waqa Blake and Peta Hiku for breaching a club curfew was the right one, but the punishment hit extra hard when the team went on to lose by a single point against Souths. It's a major wake-up call for club captain Moylan in particular, with the highly fancied premiership contenders now having lost four of their first six matches with their only wins coming against struggling sides the Tigers and Knights.
13. Eels (Last week: 11)
Saturday's defeat to the Warriors stretched Parramatta's losing streak to four, with the sight of Kieran Foran in opposition colours a year after leaving the club rubbing extra salt in the Eels' wounds. Brad Arthur's side is still packed with talent and they are an excellent chance of turning things around with home matches against the Tigers and Panthers coming up.
14. Wests Tigers (Last week: 16)
Is Ivan Cleary a miracle worker? After a week dominated by speculation over player contracts and a request for a release from star pivot Mitchell Moses, the Tigers were given very little chance in their away trip to the mighty Cowboys. But they took the lead early on and never gave it up, with Moses one of their best in a stunning win. It may just have been the infamous new-coach bump working its magic, but for a team that had been sitting at the bottom of the ladder it was a win to savour.
15. Titans (Last week: 13)
Injuries are really cruelling the Titans' chances this year, with Tyrone Roberts joining the casualty ward with a foot injury after filling in for the injured Jarryd Hayne at fullback, but in truth they were never in the contest against Canberra. Upcoming trips to Brisbane and Cronulla could get ugly.
16. Knights (Last week: 16)
Another brave effort from Newcastle wasn't enough to get them over the line, with a disallowed try to Sione Mata'utia in his 50th game proving costly against the Bulldogs. The Knights are certainly a better team than they were last year, but with just one win on the board they're not getting the results to show it.