NRL Power Rankings: Round 17
Here's the unofficial form guide for all 16 NRL clubs after this week's matches.
1. Storm (Last week: 1)
With Maroons stars Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk, Billy Slater and Will Chambers all out of action after last week's Origin II, Melbourne could have been forgiven for copping a hiding against a near full-strength Roosters side. Instead, the next generation of Storm prodigies lifted again and looked destined to claim another victory after beating the Cowboys a week earlier. But like a week earlier, the Storm let a good lead slip away and this time it was their opponents who slotted the match-winning field goal. Still, when a team can be without four of their best players and still match it with the second-best side in the league they are head and shoulders above the rest of the competition.
2. Roosters (Last week: 2)
It was a real case of get-out-of-jail for the Roosters on Saturday night in Adelaide, stunned in the early stages by a young Melbourne outfit to trail 20-6 before fighting back with a few late tries. Blake Ferguson's last-minute try was a superb clutch play matched only by Michael Gordon's nerve-racking conversion to send the game into golden point, before Mitchell Pearce – who has well and truly put his field goal woes behind him – slotted a superb one-pointer from 35 metres out and close to the right touchline. The Tricolours can make it four straight if they beat the Sharks this week.
3. Broncos (Last week: 4)
Despite losing star fullback Darius Boyd and five-eighth Anthony Milford the Broncos are coping well with the usually draining State of Origin period, earning back-to-back wins with a confident 30-20 defeat of the Raiders in Canberra. With Ben Hunt recalled from reserve grade and Benji Marshall given a starting spot Brisbane's halves combination had a makeshift look about it before kick-off but they easily outperformed their rivals, with both Marshall and Hunt producing their best displays of the season. They host the Storm in the game of the round on Friday before finishing the Origin period with a bye and a trip to struggling Newcastle.
4. Sea Eagles (Last week: 5)
There have been more headline-grabbing stories this season but Trent Barrett's quiet revolution at Manly is one of the success stories of 2017, with the Sea Eagles climbing from bottom-four battlers last season to genuine contenders this year. Daly Cherry-Evans now sits atop the league's try assist rankings and Martin Taupau is the league's most prolific offloader, while the team's four-game winning streak is the best in the NRL right now. They thumped reigning premiers Cronulla on Sunday and should be too good for the Warriors this week.
5. Sharks (Last week: 3)
Cronulla's 35-18 home loss to Manly would have taken many tipsters by surprise but in hindsight it's a result that's been brewing for some time, considering the Sharks haven't been truly convincing since mid-April. They've had wins since then – although never by more than six points – but they only just got past the Tigers last weekend and have the fifth-worst attacking record in the league. They do have a stack of Origin stars so could be feeling the toll of a gruelling time of the year, but they'll need to find some improvement if they are to defend their title.
6. Cowboys (Last week: 6)
It wasn't quite a case of no Thurston, no worries for the Cowboys but they did manage to snatch a win against the Panthers on Saturday – albeit at the last possible moment. Michael Morgan stood tall with a couple of crucial try assists, Kyle Feldt flew to score the try that levelled the scores in the dying stages and Ethan Lowe nailed an even tougher match-winning conversion than Thurston's Origin II effort for Queensland to win the game. It's only the first step as North Queensland look to keep their premiership hopes alive without their best player, but so far, so good.
7. Eels (Last week: 8)
Fresh from their first bye of the year the Eels will be more than ready for a grudge match against the Bulldogs on Thursday night. They jump a spot in our rankings due to Penrith's slide.
8. Panthers (Last week: 7)
The Panthers had the perfect opportunity to beat the Cowboys in Townsville on Saturday, with their opponents playing a rookie at halfback in place of injured superstar Johnathan Thurston, and they looked on track to make it four straight wins when Nathan Cleary went himself to put them in front inside the final 15 minutes. But a late try to the home side decided the contest and Penrith were left with the worrying stat that they're still yet to beat a top-eight side this season.
9. Dragons (Last week: 9)
St George Illawarra's rocky form continues despite a stunning comeback win over Newcastle, in what was easily the weekend's most bizarre game. They started well with 10 early points, then conceded five first-half tries, only to utterly dominate the second half with Origin star Josh Dugan and Tyson Frizell and playmaker Gareth Widdop impressing. The 32-28 win was still too close for comfort for a team looking to be a finals contender but after back-to-back defeats any win is worth celebrating.
10. Warriors (Last week: 11)
The Warriors have won three of their last four – easily their best run of the season – with Shaun Johnson conjuring six try assists in that time to take his season tally to 13, the equal-best in the league. Those wins have come against bottom-eight sides the Bulldogs and Titans and a depleted Brisbane outfit missing their Origin stars, and the New Zealanders will face a tougher task when they travel to Perth to take on the in-form Sea Eagles this Saturday – especially with star hooker Issac Luke sidelined with a dislocated shoulder.
11. Raiders (Last week: 10)
It's just not happening for Canberra this year, is it? Outplayed on their own turf by an understrength Brisbane side, the Raiders are slipping further behind the pack despite being the second-best attacking side in the league behind the Storm. Their focus has shifted towards winning the tight games following six close defeats this season, but after going into the half-time break with a two-point lead against Brisbane the Green Machine were blown away in the second half. They'll be desperate to snap a three-game losing run against the Cowboys.
12. Bulldogs (Last week: 12)
Last week's bye appeared to come at just the wrong time following their 16-2 win over the Dragons and that's the way it proved, with the Dogs going down 21-14 to the Warriors in Auckland. Attack has been their Achilles heel this season and that was the case again as they were made to wait 54 minutes for their first try. They've scored the fewest points of any team this season – 10 points less than the Tigers and 30 less than the Knights – and until that improves it's hard to see them as a finals threat.
13. Rabbitohs (Last week: 13)
After a week off the Rabbitohs have the chance to take back-to-back wins for just the second time this season when they host the Panthers at ANZ Stadium.
14. Titans (Last week: 14)
Jarryd Hayne and Konrad Hurrell both grabbed try-scoring doubles against the Wests Tigers as the Titans ended a four-game losing run in style. Technically they're still in the race for a finals finish but with matches against top-eight sides the Dragons and Sharks coming up their slim hopes could be dashed soon.
15. Wests Tigers (Last week: 15)
Beaten comfortably by the Titans after last week's heartbreaking two-point loss to Cronulla, it's back to square one yet again for a Tigers side that has now lost seven on the trot. They have a golden opportunity to end that run in a 'battle for the spoon' against Newcastle on Sunday…
16. Knights (Last week: 16)
For 20 minutes, the Knights were sensational against the Dragons on Sunday afternoon. Jaelen Feeney and Sione Mata'utia were laying on tries while Nathan Ross ran in a scorching hat-trick in a rare burst of attacking brilliance for the reigning wooden spooners. Unfortunately, that 20-minute scoring spree was sandwiched between an ordinary start to the game and a simply disastrous second half, in which Nathan Brown's men blew a 28-10 lead to lose 32-28. Once again the positives have been outweighed by the negatives for Newcastle but they must be a chance of getting the job done at home against the Tigers this week.