NRL Power Rankings: Round 19
The Rabbitohs slip up, the Panthers stun Manly and the Knights suffer heartbreak yet again. Here's the unofficial form guide for all 16 NRL clubs after this week's matches.
1. Storm (Last week: 1)
Minus six Origin stars – including their entire spine – the Storm were long odds to beat an Eels side desperate to clinch a spot in the finals and chasing a third straight win. Despite Melbourne's loss, just their fourth in 17 games this season, the Origin period has been great for the club's long-term future with a host of youngsters getting quality first-grade experience and the team coming out the other end still sitting in first place on the ladder.
2. Sharks (Last week: 2)
One of eight teams to enjoy the bye this week, Cronulla will be praying their State of Origin stars come through Wednesday's decider unscathed.
3. Roosters (Last week: 3)
To be without four Origin stars and still beat a team that was coming off a 42-14 victory is no easy feat, so full credit to the under-strength Roosters in their win over the Rabbitohs on Friday night. It wasn't quite the slick performance we expect from the Tricolours but that can be expected with Mitchell Pearce, Boyd Cordner, Blake Ferguson and Dylan Napa unavailable, and a top-four finish looks more and more likely for Trent Robinson's men.
4. Sea Eagles (Last week: 4)
After five straight wins and with Daly Cherry-Evans having a point to prove after being ignored by Queensland selectors, Manly really should have got the better of a Penrith outfit that was reeling from a 42-14 thrashing at the hands of Souths a week earlier. Instead a lopsided penalty count and a bruised opponent proved too much for them, with the Sea Eagles slumping to their first loss against a bottom-eight side since their own defeat to the Rabbitohs way back in Round 2. Still, we'll treat that as a speed bump for now and leave them in our top four.
5. Broncos (Last week: 5)
Brisbane's Maroons stars may have had the welcome distraction of Origin III to focus on in the last week but the rest of the squad will be itching to make amends for their embarrassing 30-point loss to Melbourne in Round 17 – and they could pile on the points against hapless Newcastle on Saturday.
6. Cowboys (Last week: 6)
A tricky visit to the Rabbitohs awaits North Queensland after this week's bye.
7. Eels (Last week: 7)
Parramatta have got things back on track, winning five of their last six including their last three on the trot ahead of their final bye of the season. They still have a negative for-and-against but should still have what it takes to hold onto a finals spot.
8. Dragons (Last week: 9)
The Dragons are fresh from a bye and have a relatively easy run home, but will have to turn their form around if they are to secure their spot in the finals. Since Round 7 they've had six losses and three wins, including tight four-point victories against the struggling Tigers and Knights. A loss in Canberra this week would heap more pressure on Paul McGregor's men.
9. Rabbitohs (Last week: 8)
The last fortnight pretty much sums up the conundrum that is the South Sydney Rabbitohs these days. Last week they lived up to their potential – Adam Reynolds' kicking game was sublime, a forward pack led by Sam Burgess ran riot, twin hookers Robbie Farah and Damien Cook thrived and Alex Johnston was scoring tries for fun. A week later they came up against a beatable Roosters side missing four Origin stars, and lost. The gap between the potential at the club and the results on the field must make the Rabbitohs one of the more frustrating teams to support this season.
10. Panthers (Last week: 11)
If a 42-14 loss to a bottom-eight side doesn't give your team a wake-up call then nothing will, and Penrith responded in the best possible way from last week's horror result against Souths by stunning the high-flying Sea Eagles at Pepper Stadium. It's their first win over a top-eight side this season and shows what they're capable of, but finding some consistency remains the key.
11. Warriors (Last week: 10)
In the last couple of months the Warriors have had three wins, two byes, and two losses on the road (including a very close contest against Manly in Perth) and they're definitely the kind of team that's capable of stringing together a few wins in the final third of the regular season.
12. Titans (Last week: 12)
After the bye the Titans will be chasing a third-straight win. The good news? They're at home. The bad news? They're up against reigning premiers Cronulla.
13. Raiders (Last week: 13)
Canberra haven't won a game since may and will be desperate for the old hoodoo to return when they host the Dragons on Friday night.
14. Bulldogs (Last week: 14)
Does it get much closer than that? Canterbury's great escape – courtesy of a Moses Mbye charge-down and runaway 80-metre try – saved them the embarrassment of a home defeat to the Knights in Josh Reynolds' final game at Belmore Sports Ground for the club. It was hardly a convincing result, but any comeback victory is a great boost to morale.
15. Wests Tigers (Last week: 15)
The Tigers will be chasing back-to-back wins for the first time this season when they visit Manly on Sunday.
16. Knights (Last week: 16)
Poor Newcastle keep finding new ways to lose games, this time suffering a heartbreaking comeback defeat after leading 18-8 with five minutes left. Young half Brock Lamb was handed the roughest learning experience of his career so far, having his kick charged down for the match-winning try then shanking a penalty goal attempt that could have sent the game into extra-time, but the team's inability to close out the contest wasn't down to one player and has been a problem for them all year. At the very least the performance – featuring a couple of terrific try-saving tackles in the first half – was a massive improvement on the previous week's loss to the Tigers.