NRL Power Rankings: Round 8
Here's how we rank the NRL's 16 clubs at the end of Round 7 of the 2017 Telstra Premiership season.
1. Storm (Last week: 1)
Melbourne cling onto top spot in our rankings like they clung onto victory against the Sea Eagles in Manly, having survived a late fightback after seemingly killing off the result with four tries in the opening 20 minutes. The Storm were outscored 10-0 in the second half and Craig Bellamy would not have been happy to see his team let their opponents back into the contest, but a win is a win and the Storm remain the most reliable side in the NRL. Billy Slater continues to get back to his old self with a couple of sharp try assists for second-rower Felise Kaufusi late in a lethal three-minute burst.
2. Broncos (Last week: 2)
It was genuine get-out-of-jail stuff from the Broncos on Friday night, who were trailing 12-0 after 15 minutes and then 22-20 with three minutes remaining against local rivals the Gold Coast. That's when Matt Gillett's charge down led to James Roberts' match-winning try against his old club. It capped a hat-trick from Roberts in a great individual performance and saved the blushes of Wayne Bennett's men against the injury-hit underdogs, but the good teams tend to have the knack of winning the close ones.
3. Dragons (Last week: 3)
We wrote last week that the Dragons were taking on the Cowboys at just the right time, and so it proved with St George Illawarra's dream start to the season continuing with yet another quality win against a North Queensland side that missed Johnathan Thurston. The Dragons' first-half performance was sublime, with five tries including a double to rejuvenated centre Tim Lafai. The Cowboys got to within six points in the second term but the Red V got the result they wanted to stay atop the Telstra Premiership ladder.
4. Raiders (Last week: 4)
After last week's 42-16 attacking masterclass the Raiders demonstrated their defensive prowess in Round 7, restricting the Warriors to a single try in a 20-8 win. After helping his winger Jordan Rapana to a hat-trick last week Joey Leilua went himself against the New Zealanders with a try-scoring double, while Jarrod Croker produced what could be the year's best try-saving tackle to deny a flying Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
5. Sharks (Last week: 5)
You can't get a much more professional performance than Cronulla's in Penrith on Sunday. The Sharks were on the back foot for the bulk of the first half and not only defended stoutly – denying the Panthers a single try – but were also clinical in attack themselves when given the chance to lead 12-2 at the break. In the second half they were even better, controlling the game and trapping Penrith inside their own 20-metre zone to secure the win. Don't write off the premiers.
6. Roosters (Last week: 7)
It took longer than they would have liked to put the result to bed but the Roosters were a class above the Knights on Friday night, scoring twice in each half and restricting their opponents to six points in a solid win. They enjoy a long break now ahead of a blockbuster against the Dragons at Allianz Stadium on Anzac Day.
7. Bulldogs (Last week: 9)
Canterbury got the better of the Rabbitohs on Good Friday thanks to a classy second-half display, in which they held their opponents scoreless while scoring three tries of their own. Josh Reynolds produced probably his best game of the year while halfback Matt Frawley again pulled the strings like a more seasoned campaigner after coming off the bench. The Dogs have now strung together three wins on the trot and can make it four against the Wests Tigers on Sunday.
8. Cowboys (Last week: 6)
John Asiata ended up being Johnathan Thurston's surprise replacement in the halves this week, and while the specialist back-rower did help create a try for Scott Bolton with a booming second-half bomb it was clear the Cowboys missed their talismanic No.7 against the Dragons. But more than that, they struggled defensively in the first half against an in-form Dragons side. North Queensland did remarkably well to make a game of it after going into the sheds at half-time down 28-4, and the final 28-22 scoreline will at least give them confidence ahead of this week's home clash with Newcastle.
9. Sea Eagles (Last week: 8)
It's not often a team can concede four tries in the first 18 minutes and still finish a game with their heads held high. Manly showed great fight to not only prevent a blowout against the Storm but to actually give themselves a chance of an unlikely win, running in five tries of their own on the way to a narrow 30-26 defeat.
10. Warriors (Last week: 10)
After back-to-back wins at home the Warriors were always going to face a tougher test against the Raiders in Canberra, and that's how it proved on Saturday. The team's focus on error-free possession football deserted them in the second half with 13 handling mistakes, two of which led to Raiders tries. If they can't control the ball this week in Melbourne they can expect a similar result.
11. Eels (Last week: 13)
After falling behind 22-10 against the Tigers the Eels were forced to make three late tries to escape with a win on Monday, but after four straight defeats Brad Arthur's men will take the two competition points anyway they can. Clint Gutherson was impressive at the back and in-form Tigers pivot Mitch Moses could join the club soon, but there's still plenty of improvement in the Eels this year.
12. Rabbitohs (Last week: 11)
They held a 9-8 lead going into the break on Friday but the Rabbitohs were blown away by the Bulldogs in the second term. Sam Burgess is now facing a potential two-match ban and South Sydney are again searching for answers ahead of a tough clash with Brisbane this week.
13. Titans (Last week: 15)
Friday's loss to big brother Brisbane was the very definition of 'heartbreaker', with Kane Elgey's clearing kick charged down in the final moments to hand the Broncos the match-winning try after the Titans had made a superb start to the match against the odds at Suncorp Stadium. It was a performance that deserved a win, and instead just led to even more injuries, but more will come in future if the Titans keep playing like that.
14. Panthers (Last week: 12)
Penrith dominated parts of Sunday's clash with Cronulla, camping on the Sharks' line, but their renowned attacking flair deserted them for the entire match with the Panthers unable to score a single try across the 80 minutes. Their opponents had no such troubles, running away with a 26-point win in the end. Anthony Griffin's men have now lost five of their first seven in 2017, with their only wins coming against the two teams below them on this list. It's just not clicking for them right now.
15. Wests Tigers (Last week: 14)
After last week's stunning win in North Queensland the Tigers looked set to make it two-from-two under new coach Ivan Cleary, skipping out to a 22-10 lead with 25 minutes left against the Eels on Monday. But their defensive frailties on the edges brought them undone with Parramatta sneaking away with the victory, despite another dazzling display from James Tedesco. Mitch Moses was another standout for the Tigers but could be on his way to Parramatta soon.
16. Knights (Last week: 16)
After 65 minutes the Knights were well in the contest against the Roosters, bolstered by a strong Newcastle crowd of 21,412 and sensing an upset. Fifteen minutes later the game was over, with the Roosters prevailing comfortable 24-6 winners. Once again, a strong effort wasn't enough for a Knights team missing the injured Jamie Buhrer and lacking the class in attack to finish off their attacking opportunities. Knights fans can't fault their team's effort at least.