Soward's Power Rankings: Dragons reach top spot
Two weeks into the season and league lovers everywhere are re-thinking who will finish where and why. The Tigers added the Storm to their early list of scalps, the Raiders lost again from a seemingly safe position, while the Eels were just plain horrible. Check out NRL.com expert Jamie Soward's thoughts in this week's Power Rankings.
1. St George Illawarra Dragons (2)
Not many Dragons sides have gone into Shark Park and won, and they went in there and won ugly after trailing 14-0. James Graham doesn't have the pressure he had at the Bulldogs. He can play straight up and down and doesn't have to ball-play or organise like a halfback. They've got a great kicking game and a really hard-working forward pack. They deserve to be No.1 this week.
2. Penrith Panthers (4)
Great effort to find a way to get out of jail again after another slow start. Winning a tight game like that after trailing twice gets you up the rankings. They need to play Tyrone Peachey more and that's a puzzle they're still working out.
3. Melbourne Storm (1)
Down from top spot to number three but you can't keep a Storm side down for long. They would've been very disappointed with their effort in Billy Slater's big milestone 300th game, but you won't see that performance again from the Storm.
4. Sydney Roosters (5)
Climb back up a spot after some signs of improvement. They started slowly against the Bulldogs and two lucky bounces got them on the front foot but they looked really solid from that point. They look like they're going to build into the season quite nicely.
5. North Queensland Cowboys (3)
Another Queensland classic against the Broncos. They didn't get the win and they'll be disappointed with that, but they had a chance to win at the end and only drop a couple of spots in the Power Rankings. The Cowboys are still my competition favourites.
6. Newcastle Knights (11)
Hung in there against Canberra with an 80-minute performance and deserved their win, which was probably the most exciting game of the week. Mitchell Pearce is on fire and they've really responded to how he leads that team around. Kalyn Ponga is must-watch TV.
7. New Zealand Warriors (9)
Had two games against teams that won't feature in the top eight and they had to win both if they were going to improve, and they've done that now. Blake Green - for anyone that wanted to listen - was going to be one of the buys of the year and he's shown that thus far outside Shaun Johnson.
8. Manly Warringah Sea Eagles (8)
Fifty-four nil, what else can you say? Daly Cherry-Evans dominated the ball and brought Lachlan Croker into the game really well, the Trbojevic brothers were great and every player contributed. The way they ran riot reminded me of the Manly sides from their championship years on a Sunday afternoon at 'Brooky'. They looked like no-one was going to beat them.
9. Wests Tigers (12)
Pure effort and heart. They were probably ranked a little low last week. They're winning games off defence and if they'd scored another try or two they'd probably be ranked higher. They're working for each other and no-one's giving them a chance - myself included - and they keep coming up with tough performances. Easily the biggest surprise packets for 2018.
10. Brisbane Broncos (16)
Probably could've had them higher except that every team ranked above them played pretty well. A great effort to come from behind, lots of enthusiasm and back to looking like a Wayne Bennett-coached side. I loved the fact Tevita Pengai Junior came out with a man of the match performance.
11. Cronulla Sharks (7)
I have no doubt they're going to bounce back but is the season going to pass them by? Two pretty tough games to start the season and two losses but they were both games they could've won. I'm sure Shane Flanagan would've thought they could've at least won one of those. Shark Park is a tough place to play and they need to be able build off that.
12. Canberra Raiders (14)
Scored 30 points for the second week in a row and got beaten. Who'd want to be a coach? They actually went up in the Power rankings this week but only because other teams were so poor. But this Raiders side, it's hard to be enthusiastic about their chances now after scoring 30 twice and losing.
13. South Sydney Rabbitohs (15)
Started off great against Penrith but in that second half, they just didn't look like they wanted to have the killer instinct. I liked the debut of Adam Doueihi and I still think this Rabbitohs side will get better, but they're still working some things out in terms of their attack.
14. Gold Coast Titans (10)
Losing Ash Taylor is crucial but losing one player shouldn't turn into a performance like the one they put in on the weekend. They looked clunky and disorganised. When players like Taylor are out, it's a real chance for guys like Kane Elgey to be able to lead the side. The Warriors at home is a tough ask but the Titans were disappointing.
15. Canterbury Bulldogs (13)
I don't understand how such a good defensive side last year can let in 60 points in the first two weeks. Their attack still requires some work but we all knew we'd have to wait for that. The effort seems to be there and this team will take a little while to grow.
16. Parramatta Eels (6)
Completely out-enthused, couldn't have had a worse performance. Looked really tired and lethargic. They looked like the Panthers of last year in terms of the hype and what possibly could be, but that first 20 minutes simply wasn't the standard we've come to expect from the Eels. This is an important week for Parra.