NRL Power Rankings: Round 14
The Roosters get the edge over a premiership rival while things go from bad to worse for the Bulldogs and Warriors. Here's the unofficial form guide for all 16 NRL clubs after this week's matches.
1. Storm (Last week: 1)
It was a case of no Cameron Smith, no worries for the Storm, who made light work of the Newcastle Knights on Friday night. Billy Slater was the star, scoring two tries and setting up two others in a blunt message to Queensland selectors and Melbourne look in red hot form ahead of this week's grand final rematch against Cronulla.
2. Sharks (Last week: 2)
Fresh from their first bye of the season, the Sharks will be primed for Thursday night's blockbuster against Melbourne.
3. Roosters (Last week: 4)
They were without Mitchell Pearce but the rest of the Roosters' Origin stars stood tall in a narrow 18-16 win on Saturday night over a Broncos side that also featured several Origin players (and was missing a star playmaker of their own in Anthony Milford). They should get the better of the Tigers this week ahead of their first bye of the year.
4. Broncos (Last week: 3)
The State of Origin period is notoriously tricky for Brisbane and they've started it with back-to-back defeats, going down by two points to the Roosters after last week's loss (minus their Maroons stars) against the Warriors. Saturday's thriller against the Roosters was almost a mini-Origin in itself, with the visitors coming within a whisker of taking the game into extra-time. Neither loss is a disaster for the Broncos, and they'll be expected to bounce back when they return to Suncorp Stadium to face the Rabbitohs.
5. Sea Eagles (Last week: 5)
It took a field goal from Daly Chery-Evans but the Sea Eagles did enough to get over the line against Canberra, having seemingly secured victory with a brilliant first half performance that gave them a 20-6 advantage. Cherry-Evans, Dylan Walker and Martin Taupau all shone but Manly will be disappointed to let their opponents back into the contest.
6. Dragons (Last week: 6)
Gareth Widdop returned from injury and made his presence known immediately, scoring twice in a narrow 16-12 win over the Tigers. St George Illawarra's Blues duo Josh Dugan and Tyson Frizell also performed well in that game (Frizell later cleared of any serious damage after copping a ribs injury) and Paul McGregor's men remain on track for finals footy with the second-best points differential in the league behind Melbourne.
7. Cowboys (Last week: 7)
North Queensland have been alternating between wins and losses for the past couple of months but any victory without their talisman Johnathan Thurston is a good one, and they got another against the Titans on Saturday. After trailing at the break the Cowboys were efficient enough to get the job done in the second half, with barnstorming back-rower Coen Hess crashing over for another try amidst calls for him to be given a shot at Origin level.
8. Eels (Last week: 11)
Already without star playmaker Corey Norman, Parramatta lost four players – Kaysa Pritchard, Josh Hoffman, David Gower and Kirisome Auva'a – to injury during their clash with the Warriors, and they still held on to win by eight. Brad Arthur's outfit is a tough team, with the versatile Clint Gutherson excelling again and increasingly proving to be more than just a Mr Fix-It in the Eels' backline.
9. Titans (Last week: 8)
Once again the Gold Coast showed they can hang with a more fancied opponent, but there was no surprise result this week with the Cowboys running away with the win after the Titans had eked out an 8-6 half-time lead. Jarryd Hayne had a night to forget at centre at club level, with limited attacking impact and 15 minutes spent on the bench for a concussion test, but he could be back in the No.1 jersey soon.
10. Raiders (Last week: 9)
The Green Machine once again holds the best attacking record in the NRL but it's not getting them across the line every week, with a poor first half costing them dearly in the long run. The Raiders did very well to wipe out a 14-point half-time deficit and send the game into golden point, but it wasn't quite enough and they've now lost four of their last six. This week's clash with Penrith could be a tryfest.
11. Panthers (Last week: 14)
Penrith needed a drastic form revival after losing seven of their first nine games this season, and that's exactly what they've had with three straight victories. It's the second best current winning streak in the league behind Cronulla's four and the more promising sign is that their latest performance was easily the best of them – a 38-0 shellacking of the Bulldogs. Suddenly the men from the west are looking as sharp as they did last season, even with Matt Moylan shifted to five-eighth and Mitch Rein covering for Peter Wallace at hooker.
12. Rabbitohs (Last week: 12)
They had the bye this week but Souths will have gone almost a month since their last win when they line up to face Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night. They probably should have gotten the points against the Broncos in Round 8 – can they get the job done this week?
13. Bulldogs (Last week: 10)
What had been a tough run of games has turned into a four-match losing streak for Canterbury, with Sunday's 38-0 loss to the Panthers a new low point for their season. The previous losses in that streak – first against the Cowboys and then narrow defeats to the Roosters and Sharks – can be excused considering the quality of their opponents this year, but being shut out by a team with a losing record in front of your own fans is not an acceptable result for a club with the Bulldogs' ambitions. At least skipper James Graham should return this week but it'll take a much-improved showing from their entire team to get things back on track.
14. Warriors (Last week: 13)
Yet another unimpressive performance from the star-studded Warriors against a weakened opponent has seen them slide further down our rankings. With the talent at their disposal the New Zealand outfit remains the most frustrating team in the league. Their occasional victories – like last week's win over the Origin-depleted Broncos or their Round 9 triumph over a very good Roosters side – only make the string of losses surrounding those results all the more confounding. Regardless, they've every chance of getting a result against the Titans on the Gold Coast this week.
15. Wests Tigers (Last week: 16)
The Tigers were well in the contest against one of the NRL's success stories of 2017 in the Dragons on Saturday, with Blues brothers James Tedesco and Aaron Woods continuing their strong form from Origin I as their club side went down 16-12. It wasn't the win they wanted but it was a massive improvement on their 36-0 defeat to the Broncos a fortnight ago, suggesting Ivan Cleary's side are at least on the way up.
16. Knights (Last week: 15)
Newcastle have a surprisingly decent recent history against the Storm, who went into Friday's night's game with a horror record when playing without Cameron Smith. With Smith sidelined, the Knights had a genuine chance of springing an upset. But they never looked in the game, leaking 40 points as Billy Slater and Cameron Munster ran rampant. It's a case of back to the drawing board again ahead of this week's visit to Manly.