NRL Power Rankings: Round 12
The league's frontrunners all enjoyed wins ahead of the start of the bye rounds while the mid-table sides are showing glimpses of better things to come. Here's the unofficial form guide for all 16 NRL clubs after this week's matches.
1. Storm (Last week: 1)
Melbourne got the job done against Souths in Perth to hold their spot atop the Telstra Premiership ladder (and our rankings), with their biggest blow of the week the news that Billy Slater wouldn't be playing in State of Origin I. While it's a shock snubbing for one of the club's greats, it should if anything only help the Storm's mid-season prospects with Slater to now be available in Round 15 and 18 if the Maroons don't switch things up for Game Two. Craig Bellamy's men get their first bye this week.
2. Broncos (Last week: 2)
Simply a class or two above last week's opponents the Wests Tigers, running up a 36-0 scoreline, the Broncos have been rewarded with half a dozen players selected in Kevin Walters' Maroons side for Origin I. Anthony Milford was in dazzling form against the Tigers and is set to get his chance for Queensland in place of the injured Johnathan Thurston, and Brisbane fans will be hoping he comes back from Origin camp an even more complete player.
3. Sharks (Last week: 3)
For the third straight week Cronulla played in a game decided by six points or less, but the third straight week they were on the winning side. The premiers are making a habit of winning ugly, a knack that could take them a long way again this season. Andrew Fifita is hitting peak form leading into Origin I and Wade Graham is more than ready for his second Origin appearance, while the availability of skipper Paul Gallen at club level after his rep retirement is set to be a major boost to Cronulla's chances over the Origin period.
4. Roosters (Last week: 4)
The Roosters have been a little hit and miss this year but they look very, very good in full flight, with Mitchell Pearce in career-best form, the big men doing the job up front and a troupe of fast, clinical finishers out wide putting on the finishing touches. Pearce scored the match-winner against the Bulldogs on Sunday while Latrell Mitchell has been excellent since returning to the side, and the thought of James Tedesco joining this outfit next season is a frightening prospect for opposition sides.
5. Sea Eagles (Last week: 5)
No team has made more line breaks this season than Manly, who in Round 11 thumped a Titans side that had gotten the better of Melbourne a week earlier. They have won all five of their away games this season – having only won four away games all season last year – and have made tremendous strides under Trent Barrett this season. Even Akuila Uate is back to his best, once again looking like the player who earned five Test appearances for the Kangaroos.
6. Dragons (Last week: 6)
Not only did St George Illawarra beat the Warriors in New Zealand without star attacking weapons Gareth Widdop and Josh Dugan, they did it in style. Paul Vaughan may have missed out on an Origin jersey for NSW but he's been among the best props in the league so far this season, while the Dragons' attack has undergone a stunning improvement in the last 12 months with the team ranking first in the NRL for points and offloads and second for line breaks.
7. Cowboys (Last week: 7)
After earning a proud away win over the Bulldogs a week earlier, the Cowboys couldn't quite repeat the effort against the Sharks in Round 11 – but they should have Johnathan Thurston back for their next clash against the Titans in a fortnight. They may have a negative for-and-against but they've still won more games than they've lost so far in 2017 despite being without star men Thurston, Matt Scott, Lachlan Coote and Jake Granville at times this season.
8. Titans (Last week: 8)
The Gold Coast's excellent three-game winning streak came to an end at the hands of the Sea Eagles on Saturday, with Neil Henry's restructured backline featuring Jarryd Hayne at left centre and Tyrone Roberts at fullback showing its first signs of weakness against a rampant Manly attack. The Titans have a week off to fine-tune things before a tough trip to North Queensland.
9. Bulldogs (Last week: 9)
Trailing 20-6 at half-time against the Roosters, Des Hasler's men staged a strong second-half fightback to cut the deficit to two points before Mitchell Pearce's late try killed off the Bulldogs' hopes. Attack is still Canterbury's main problem – they may have conceded the second fewest missed tackles in the league but they've also scored the second fewest points – but they have a great chance of getting a win against a Sharks side missing their Origin stars this week.
10. Raiders (Last week: 12)
A good win over Parramatta – albeit one suffering from a couple of key injuries – lifted the spirits of the Raiders after the previous week's embarrassing loss to Newcastle, but it's still hard to determine if Canberra can get back to the form that saw them finish second at the end of 26 rounds last season. Josh Paplii has been in rampaging form while Nick Cotric has been a revelation on the wing, and the other bright sign is Jordan Rapana and Joey Leilua are starting to fire again with both finding the try-line against the Eels.
11. Eels (Last week: 10)
Mitchell Moses didn't have the dream start to his new career at the Eels, with Parramatta going down at home to the Raiders. The absence of the injured Corey Norman was compounded injuries to standout forward Nathan Brown and former NSW centre Michael Jennings, with the Eels still managing to earn the bulk of possession only for defensive lapses to cost them dearly. With no players on Origin duty Parramatta is at least capable of surging up the ladder in the middle part of the season.
12. Rabbitohs (Last week: 11)
Souths competed well with the league's frontrunners on Sunday, staying in the contest with the Storm in Perth up until Suliasi Vunivalu's try inside the final 10 minutes. It was a performance – like their one-point loss to the Broncos a month ago – that proves the Rabbitohs can compete with the NRL's big guns, but unfortunately for them they're stuck in the bottom half of the ladder after seven losses – including all five of their 'home' games. They're out to end that home losing streak against the Eels on Friday.
13. Panthers (Last week: 13)
Is it time for Anthony Griffin to start giving his half-time team talk at the start of each game? Once again the Panthers were terrible in the first half, this time giving up a 14-0 lead to the last-placed Knights. And once again they turned on the style to fight back and win – and this week's 30-20 result was much more comfortable in the end than they're 36-28 turnaround a week earlier against the Warriors. But it remains to be seen whether Penrith can match it with the stronger teams this season.
14. Warriors (Last week: 14)
The Warriors had a golden opportunity to beat a top-eight team last week, hosting a Dragons side that was missing their two main strike weapons in Gareth Widdop and Josh Dugan. Instead the Warriors' right-side defence disintegrated, with their opponents wreaking havoc to the disappointment of the Waikato crowd. The frustrating thing is all the key ingredients are there now – an all-Kiwis spine and a World Cup-winning coach in Stephen Kearney – and yet the Warriors' underachieving ways persist.
15. Knights (Last week: 15)
Newcastle are still struggling to put two strong halves of football together. They did it last week in their win over the Raiders and they made the right start against Penrith on Sunday, holding their opponents scoreless in the first half for the first time in three years. But then they blew it, their 14-0 advantage evaporating as they failed to show the patience in attack and the grit in defence that served them so well earlier.
16. Wests Tigers (Last week: 16)
Not a lot of good news at the Tigers these days, with the exit from the club of Mitch Moses followed by a resounding 36-0 loss to Brisbane. They are one club that will appreciate the free competition points coming from their first bye this week.