Soward's Power Rankings: Rabbitohs rule
Halfway through the NRL season and the red-hot Rabbitohs are in top spot for the third week in a row, holding off the surging Panthers and Sharks. The Knights and Warriors have each dropped a few spots, while the Roosters can't get out of eighth. Check out what NRL.com expert Jamie Soward has to say in this week's Power Rankings.
1. South Sydney Rabbitohs (last week: 1)
Went over to New Zealand to play a top-four team after a long trip to North Queensland the previous week and were far too good for the Warriors. They're back to playing really hard, no-nonsense footy and get a good kicking game off the back of that, and they're forcing teams into errors. Damien Cook has been sensational out of dummy-half and was rewarded with an Origin spot. They just play simple footy and they're doing it better than anyone else at the moment.
2. Penrith Panthers (5)
A big mover, up three spots in the Power Rankings. An impressive win at home in front of a packed house and they excelled in a finals-like atmosphere. They backed theirdefence and then they just out-competed the Dragons and came up with better game management. Their kicking game was great, they support each other well and have big back-rowers who can score tries on an edge. A really important period coming up for the young Panthers coming into Origin.
3. Cronulla Sharks (4)
Up another spot from last week after going up to Newcastle and doing what they were expected to do. Their attack was nice and varied, Matt Moylan was outstanding serving up six try assists, Val Holmes slotting in on the left was great, and now they're getting players back. That's what has been so impressive about this winning streak, that they've really done it without their stars.
4. Melbourne Storm (5)
A tough win against the Cowboys and Cameron Munster was outstanding. They'll be there at the pointy end of the season and the worry for other teams is that the Storm probably still do big games better than anyone else. The other big thing working in their favour is having Cameron Smith through the Origin period and they can set themselves up for a run.
5. St George Illawarra Dragons (2)
The bye couldn't have come at a better time for them. Once they lost Ben Hunt through injury they failed to go on and cause any problems against Penrith. That's the alarming thing - that they've been so healthy for so long with the same 17 every week, but it caught up with them on the weekend. At times their defence looked really tired and not up to their usual standards, signs we saw against the Raiders.
6. Wests Tigers (7)
A solid win over the Bulldogs in a dour, gritty game which they would've been expecting against the Dogs. Their attack at times is lacklustre compared to what they've dished up at certain times this year, but they're eking out wins and it was a nice bounce back from a poor performance against Penrith.
7. Brisbane Broncos (9)
An impressive win over the Eels. Every bloke in their pack was about 110 kilos and they just ran over the Parramatta pack. Their halves are still struggling with game management but their forwards won them that game. Whether they can keep leaning on that and make the eight, I'm not sure.
8. Sydney Roosters (8)
The Roosters stay at No.8 in the Power Rankings for the third week. It was a disappointing first half and they trailed 14-6, and then came out and got a win they were expected to get. Latrell Mitchell was a shining light and Tedesco came to the forefront, but the Roosters wouldn't be happy with that first half.
9. New Zealand Warriors (6)
Some really concerning signs for the Warriors. Twice they've been spanked at home and it's a worry for Stephen Kearney because they look vulnerable when they play against a big pack. They were really disappointing and hopefully they're not just waiting for Shaun Johnson to come back.
10. Canberra Raiders (11)
They got out-competed by Manly for most of the game but played well when it mattered. They started poorly but they got out of jail. The Raiders are a hard team to follow because they could make the eight or they could miss it. They play good for 20 minutes and then they clock off at times.
11. Manly Sea Eagles (10)
Up 20-14 against the Raiders with 10 minutes to go and with Daly Cherry-Evans in the team, Manly should've put that game on ice, but it was really disappointing to see how they finished. They had it won but some really poor game management cost them an important two points.
12. North Queensland Cowboys (15)
The Cowboys go up a few spots based on a few other teams being poor. It was a solid effort, they tried hard and they had their chances, but unfortunately they just don't know how to win. There'll be a few weird comments saying they've gone up three places after a loss but they were against better opposition.
13. Canterbury Bulldogs (13)
The Bulldogs lose another tight one but this is the Bulldogs that we've come to see so far. Their attack was stagnant at times and there was some poor edge defence. They're letting in soft tries and not making teams work for tries.
14. Newcastle Knights (12)
The Knights have steadily worked their way down the Power Rankings. Really missing Mitchell Pearce's direction, experience and kicking game. Teams are targeting Kalyn Ponga and he's still excellng but some of the other guys are performing below the standards they set themselves earlier in the year.
15. Gold Coast Titans (14)
The Titans are what we thought they were. They're going to try hard for 60 minutes but they really got blown away in that second half. For all the young talent they have, they're learning some hard lessons. They had a 14-6 lead and didn't come out of the sheds with much to offer. It's an 80-minute game, not 40.
16. Parramatta Eels (16)
They're hard to watch because I don't know who's in charge of their team and I'm not sure if they know. Watching them play, they look disorganised in and around their attack.