NRL Power Rankings: Round 26
Our unofficial form guide for all 16 NRL clubs as we head into the final round of the Telstra Premiership regular season.
1. Storm (Last week: 1)
We've known there was daylight between Melbourne and the chasing pack this season but the Storm stepped up yet another gear on the weekend to smash an in-form Rabbitohs team by 60 points. Wingers Josh Addo-Carr and Suliasi Vunivalu both scored hat-tricks and combined brilliantly for the final points of the match, with the Storm now ranked No.1 in the league in both attack and defence. Craig Bellamy has built a pure rugby league machine this season and you can pretty much pencil them in for another grand final appearance already.
2. Roosters (Last week: 3)
They may have a relatively easy clash against the hapless Titans coming up but the Roosters have had some quality finals warm-ups in recent weeks, earning their second close win in as many weeks with a narrow victory over the reigning premiers a fortnight after a tight loss to the Storm in Melbourne.
3. Eels (Last week: 5)
Parramatta have burst into the power rankings top three for the first time this season after a stunning run of form, culminating in an amazing 52-34 drubbing of the Broncos in Brisbane. The Eels have only lost once since Round 14 (with that loss bizarrely coming against the last-placed Knights) and are legitimately one of the form teams of the competition just a week out from the finals. Are they on track for a shock run to the premiership decider?
4. Broncos (Last week: 2)
The alarm bells were ringing loud and clear last week when Brisbane conceded 50 points at Suncorp Stadium for just the second time in their history, and that loss brings unwanted doubts for Wayne Bennett's men with the finals just around the corner. On the bright side, they won't be complacent from here on out after that wake-up call and their only losses in the second half of the season have come against in-form teams Melbourne and Parramatta.
5. Sharks (Last week: 6)
Pipped by the Roosters in a nail-biter on the weekend, the reigning premiers aren't quite showing premiership form with three losses from their last four games. They'll almost certainly beat Newcastle this week but it's hardly the best build-up to a finals game, although they did endure a similar slump at the end of the 2016 regular season and we know how that campaign finished. You can't write them off just yet.
6. Panthers (Last week: 4)
Penrith's fortunes have swung rapidly in the last few weeks – from top-eight hopefuls to potential top-four bolters and back again – and now they could still potentially slip out of the eight if results don't go their way. Dragons forward Tariq Sims literally snatched a win from out of their hands on Sunday and this week's visit to Manly could be the match of the round.
7. Raiders (Last week: 7)
Canberra got the better of Newcastle as expected in a high-scoring game at home but are officially out of the running for a finals spot anyway, having left their late-season charge too late. They'll be out to end their year on a high but face the toughest of tests against the Storm in Melbourne.
8. Sea Eagles (Last week: 9)
Manly got out of jail against the Warriors with Tom Trbojevic and Daly Cherry-Evans producing moments of magic when it mattered most, Trbojevic scoring a clutch solo try and Cherry-Evans slotting field goals with both feet to send the game into extra time and then win it. Can they beat Penrith to secure a finals berth?
9. Cowboys (Last week: 10)
North Queensland earned their first win in more than a month by overcoming a revitalised Wests Tigers side in Campbelltown and they hang onto a spot in the NRL top eight for another week. They face a massive test against a bruised Broncos side now though.
10. Dragons (Last week: 11)
It was a must-win when St George Illawarra faced the Panthers on Sunday afternoon with their season on the line, and win they did – with Tariq Sims pulling off one of the great one-on-one strips for a runaway match-winning try. It was a brave effort away from home against a finals-bound opponent and they could still sneak into the finals yet.
11. Rabbitohs (Last week: 8)
Souths were coming off their first three-game winning streak of the season but were always going to be up against it in Melbourne, but the size of their 64-6 defeat was still a disappointment considering their recent form. They'll need to improve significantly if they are to challenge the impressive Eels this week.
12. Bulldogs (Last week: 13)
Last season the Bulldogs were in the NRL top four after Round 23, before their form nosedived with three straight losses before an instant exit from the finals. This year it took until after Round 23 for the Bulldogs to find their own spark, and they've made light work of the Sea Eagles and Titans (on the Gold Coast) in the last fortnight. The last two weeks have been Canterbury's highest-scoring attacking efforts of the season and they can do more damage by ending the Dragons' finals hopes on Sunday.
13. Wests Tigers (Last week: 12)
The Tigers were a genuine chance of defeating the Cowboys last week – their fourth top-eight opponent in as many weeks – but never really found their stride, with James Tedesco having one of his quieter games at the back. The club will farewell departing stars Tedesco and Aaron Woods at Leichhardt Oval in what could be one of the more entertaining games of the weekend against the erratic Warriors.
14. Knights (Last week: 14)
They've been predictably thumped by Canberra and Melbourne in the past two weeks and will take out the wooden spoon for a third straight season, but the Knights go into their traditional Old Boys Day with some genuine optimism for the future for the first time in a long time. The 2017 campaign has been a significant learning experience for young guns Brock Lamb, the Saifiti brothers and young skipper Sione Mata'utia, and there are more talented youngsters on the way to the club for 2018. At the very least, their trajectory is pointed in the right direction.
15. Warriors (Last week: 16)
The above can't be said of the Warriors, who will lose Kieran Foran at the end of the season having lost their last eight matches in the NRL. The earlier-than-expected return of Shaun Johnson showed just how vital the halfback is to his team's hopes, with Johnson not quite at his best but still setting up a couple of tries against a good Manly team. But the headlines from the Warriors' final home game of 2017 were all about their stunning collapse – throwing away a seven-point lead with five minutes on the clock to lose in extra-time.
16. Titans (Last week: 15)
Neil Henry is gone but the Titans' losing run continues, with the Bulldogs putting 26 points past them on their own turf. Another defeat is all but certain when they visit the Roosters on Saturday, but while the club's next coach will face a significant task there is still plenty of potential in a team that defied the odds to play finals football just a year ago.