Soward's Power Rankings: Sharks and Broncos on the move
A couple of upsets and near-upsets raised eyebrows in round 16. The Wests Tigers and Canberra Raiders look like they've run their race, the Gold Coast Titans are making noise, while the Storm flexed some premiership muscle. Check out NRL.com expert Jamie Soward's latest pecking order in this week's Power Rankings.
1. Melbourne Storm (last week: 1)
Not a great win and probably won't make too many highlight reels, but they played like a premiership team. Very sound defensively. Attack-wise maybe a little scrappy in conditions they weren't used to on a fast Adelaide Oval, but as I've said previously, Melbourne do big games and big moments better than anyone else and they showed that again against the Roosters.
2. South Sydney Rabbitohs (2)
Weren't great, weren't bad but managed to somehow win at the death for the second time this year against the Cowboys. They continue to show what a force they are. Made some big plays down the stretch and Adam Reynolds slotted a clutch field goal. It's a tough environment up in Cairns and it was tough conditions, but the Bunnies snuck away with it again.
3. St George Illawarra Dragons (3)
Got out of jail against Parramatta. Proved they are a good team by coming back and constructing the tries they needed in crunch time. They've been able to grind out some wins after being spanked by Penrith and they've been able to blood some youngsters that they're going to need again this week. Great work by the Dragons to hold on and win a game they probably shouldn't have.
4. Sydney Roosters (4)
Didn't excite anyone with their attack and probably went backward in that area. When they beat the Panthers they went a bit more ad-lib with their structure. Against Melbourne, they didn't do that and Melbourne got up in defence all night. The Roosters' defence is great but their attack still needs work.
5. Cronulla Sharks (7)
I tipped them about a month-and-a-half-ago and they have a way of flying under the radar and winning tight games. You can just see they've got a finals mentality and Aaron Woods is a big pick-up. The Sharks are on the rise.
6. Brisbane Broncos (8)
This team is a real premiership smokey. They hung tough and hung together, rallying to dig themselves out of a 16-0 hole to steal it from Canberra. Anthony Milford was instrumental, he just needs to be more consistent, but a great overall team effort.
7. Penrith Panthers (5)
Lowest the Panthers have been in the Power Rankings all year. Lost a game to Manly that they really shouldn't have lost or could afford to lose. Looked like they had a mentality to just rock up and it'll all be fine, but you can't do that in the NRL. That one hurt the Panthers and I wonder if the discussions going on regarding the coach is affecting the players.
8. New Zealand Warriors (6)
The top eight is set but the Warriors need to start winning those home games if they're a chance of finishing in the top four and getting a home final. It was another game against a top-eight team that they've lost and they just weren't good enough to seal it in crunch time against the Sharks.
9. Gold Coast Titans (11)
Super effort on the road, backing up their impressive away win over the Bulldogs. The way they're playing, they're really the only team that could be a smokey to sneak into the top eight. They're probably a next year team, but Garth Brennan has them playing for each other on the road and they just need to find some consistency at home.
10. Canberra Raiders (9)
Unfortunately for Raiders fans, their season is done after what happened yet again on Saturday night. Hard to remember a team losing so many tight games from winning positions. I posed the question to some coaches over the weekend what the problem was and the halves was the resounding answer.
11. Canterbury Bulldogs (14)
A great win away from home and showed some character to play through the adversity of losing two players. Really showed a togetherness I'm sure all Bulldogs fans can be proud of and the challenge is to get up for it again this week and finish the season as strongly as they possibly can.
12. Newcastle Knights (10)
No Ponga, no points. Connor Watson stood up and it was good to see him run the ball and put in a performance, but it was already apparent they were thin on depth and that's now going to be tested further for Nathan Brown with no Kalyn Ponga or Slade Griffin.
13. Manly Warringah Sea Eagles (16)
A really committed effort against a Penrith side that was looking to bounce back from a big loss to the Roosters and had all its Origin players in form. Worked hard for their win and Daly Cherry-Evans has been rewarded with Origin selection.
14. Wests Tigers (12)
Their season was pretty much on the line and they failed to play like it. They gave up a fortnight ago against Canberra and looked terrible against the Titans - and that was at Leichhardt which is usually a tough place to play. They were out-enthused and outplayed.
15. North Queensland Cowboys (13)
Similar to Parramatta in that they should've won but couldn't close the game out. It's disappointing because north of the border is usually a hard place to win and the Cowboys used to just routinely close out those games, but that's twice Souths have gone up there and pinched it right at the end.
16. Parramatta Eels (15)
That game against the Dragons just typified how they've gone all year. It was a better effort individually and game they should have won, but they're just not good enough in crunch time to close it out and don't look like they know how to win.