NRL Power Rankings: Round 10
The Sea Eagles, Bulldogs and Eels continue to rise as the Warriors show some signs of promise and the Cowboys slip out of the eight. Here's the unofficial form guide for all 16 NRL clubs they prepare to take a week off for the Representative Round.
1. Storm (Last week: 1)
The Storm produced a brilliant first half against the Dragons on Sunday, running in the game's first four tries inside half an hour before Billy Slater iced the result with a double in the second half. They let the foot off the gas and conceded four late tries but the win was already in the bag and they remain the league's standout side.
2. Broncos (Last week: 3)
Like the Storm, the Broncos dominated the first half of their Round 9 clash and had all but put the match beyond doubt before conceding some late tries in the final 20 minutes. Brisbane's romp over the Panthers came at the cost of an ankle injury to star centre James Roberts. Still, Wayne Bennett remains confident Brisbane can continue winning without the speedster and on current form that's hard to argue with.
3. Sharks (Last week: 5)
They scored four tries to two but the Cronulla Sharks only just got past a Wests Tigers side that lost two of their biggest stars to injury on Saturday, with Chad Townsend producing some individual flair to score the match-winner and Wade Graham again a standout with two try assists. It wasn't the most convincing victory for the reigning premiers but with five wins in their last six and the best defensive record in the league they remain one of the form sides of the competition.
4. Roosters (Last week: 2)
Mitchell Pearce's second field goal in as many weeks didn't result in a win this time around, with Shaun Johnson's last-minute penalty goal handing victory to the Warriors in Auckland. The Roosters still look like a top-four side after their superb opening month of the campaign, but since then they've had three losses, a one-point win and a victory over the last-placed Knights. It's not a major worry just yet but the Tricolours will want to lift their form ahead of what could be a draining State of Origin period for the club.
5. Sea Eagles (Last week: 6)
Are the Sea Eagles still flying under the radar? Trent Barrett's much-improved outfit thrashed the Rabbitohs 46-8 and the Sea Eagles have now won five of their past seven. Dylan Walker is in blistering form and his wing partner Akuila Uate turned back the clock with a four-try effort, but we'll get a better look at where they stand when they travel to Brisbane as the second part of a double-header in Round 10.
6. Dragons (Last week: 4)
With Gareth Widdop on the sidelines the Dragons struggled against the Storm on Sunday, as could have been expected, but they did fight back with a late flurry of tries to show the potent attack they produced at the start of the season is still in them. They'll appreciate the week off ahead of another couple of tough clashes against Cronulla and then the Warriors in Auckland.
7. Bulldogs (Last week: 9)
Amid the off-field speculation surrounding their 2017 recruiting plans and the looming exit of favourite son Josh Reynolds, the Bulldogs got the job done against a highly-rated Raiders side with Will Hopoate excelling in his return from injury and the Morris brothers showing what they're capable of with some massive plays in attack and defence. They've now won four of their last five but have a tough run coming up with matches against the Cowboys, Roosters and Sharks.
8. Eels (Last week: 10)
Parramatta have three straight wins to their name after a confident away victory over the Cowboys, with Corey Norman back to his best and Clint Gutherson and Nathan Brown in exceptional form. Their forwards ran over the top of their North Queensland counterparts – no easy task against a team featuring Jason Taumalolo – and they're well in the race for a finals spot with a third of the season gone.
9. Raiders (Last week: 7)
Joey Leilua and Jordan Rapana form the most fearsome right-side attacking combination in the NRL but on Saturday showed they can still be a liability in defence, with the pair leaking a combined 14 missed tackles as the Bulldogs repeatedly cashed in down their edge. So far this season Canberra have only one win against teams currently in the top eight, against the seventh-placed Eels back in Round 5. Still, expect Leipana and the Raiders to bounce back after the week off with a Round 10 visit to Newcastle.
10. Titans (Last week: 11)
Somehow shifting Jarryd Hayne to centre to allow playmaking trio Tyrone Roberts, Ash Taylor and Kane Elgey to all be on the field at once worked perfectly for the Titans, who overcame a half-time deficit to blast past the Knights on Saturday afternoon. Hayne was superb again with two tries and looks set to regain a place in the NSW Origin team while Nathan Peats could potentially join him after a strong return from injury in recent weeks.
11. Warriors (Last week: 12)
Little by little the Warriors are starting to look more like genuine contenders – having gone close against the Storm on Anzac Day before beating the excellent Roosters by a point this week. They've cut out the offloads and the errors and improved their defence significantly under Stephen Kearney, and it could only be a matter of time before the fearsome trio of Shaun Johnson, Kieran Foran and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck cut loose.
12. Cowboys (Last week: 8)
The Cowboys are stuck in the middle of one of the toughest injury tolls in the competition with co-captains Matt Scott and Johnathan Thurston sidelined along with key members of the spine Jake Granville and Lachlan Coote. It's little wonder they've struggled without those big names – especially Thurston – although a team boasting internationals Jason Taumalolo, Michael Morgan and Justin O'Neill would still have been disappointed to lose by 20 at home to Parramatta. Expect them to rise up these rankings when the troops start to return.
13. Rabbitohs (Last week: 13)
South Sydney's capitulation to Manly on Friday night was all the more disappointing considering they came within a whisker of what would have been a deserved victory over the Broncos the previous week. That Brisbane result could either have fired them up or sapped their morale and unfortunately it appeared to be the latter, with the Rabbitohs having lost six games after nine rounds ahead of a crucial clash with fellow strugglers the Wests Tigers in Round 10.
14. Wests Tigers (Last week: 14)
The Tigers may be going through hell off the field but they're performing admirably on it, going down narrowly to Cronulla thanks to a late try after losing stars Aaron Woods and James Tedesco to first-half injuries. In the past month while Woods, Tedesco and Mitchell Moses have been pledging their futures to other clubs the Tigers have beaten the Cowboys and Bulldogs and suffered narrow defeats against the Eels and Sharks – all tough opponents who will be expecting to finish in the top eight this season. With in-form winger David Nofoaluma re-signing with the club and teenage giant Moses Suli impressing in the centres there are still reasons for Tigers fans to be optimistic about the future.
15. Panthers (Last week: 15)
Three late tries and strong individual performances from star men Matt Moylan and Trent Merrin were the highlights for Penrith, but in truth they were never really in the contest against Brisbane on Thursday night. Anthony Griffin's men have now lost five straight, with a victory over the hapless Newcastle their only success since Round 2. They have two winnable games coming up – hosting the Warriors and then taking on the Knights again – but those contests are now just about must-wins if they are to keep their finals chances alive.
16. Knights (Last week: 16)
Newcastle started brightly against the Gold Coast and led at half-time, as they have done four times this season. Unfortunately they've let their lead slip on all four occasions, with the effort they're showing not matched by the class of their squad.