Soward's Power Rankings: Rabbitohs back on top
The Raiders, Tigers and Knights stayed in the finals race, the Dragons and Broncos went missing, while the Rabbitohs cruised to a ninth straight win. And Cameron Smith added to the legend, guiding a no-name Melbourne team to a crucial victory. Check out NRL.com expert Jamie Soward's thoughts in this week's Power Rankings.
1. South Sydney Rabbitohs (last week: 2)
Nine wins in a row is pretty impressive in today's NRL. They're just dominating everyone at the moment. They don't need to lose a game, even though I'm sure they could use a few timely lessons, but they've got some tough games coming up and I'm keen to see how they go against some of these top four sides. They've got the Roosters coming up and they look like they're going to power on to the minor premiership, and then it'll be interesting to see how they go when the games get tighter and whether some of these other sides can work them out.
2. Melbourne Storm (1)
Down from top spot, but a great win on the road missing several key players. Can Cam Smith get any better? He just keeps improving with age and getting Melbourne over the line in these tight games. The best game managers know how to ice games and put their teams in positions to win when the pressure goes up in crunch time, and Cam Smith is the master. I'm amazed that there's not more young players watching this guy and learning from him.
3. Sydney Roosters (3)
A controversial win against the Titans but they did it without their big guns and look like they've unearthed some talent in Sean O'Sullivan. He was outstanding in his debut game, a man of the match performance in my view. Blake Ferguson showed good leadership in a tight game and he'll be an important pick-up for Parramatta next year.
4. Cronulla Sharks (7)
Up three spots after a good win over Penrith. The Sharks have a knack of flying under the radar and going about their business. Lots of experience and just a tough week to week team, especially as the games get bigger. Wade Graham adds some potency on that left side and he helps Matt Moylan's game to no end.
5. Penrith Panthers (6)
A tough one for me, because they haven't got their full strength side. Josh Mansour is coming back and Viliame Kikau has shown he's going to dominate. They had a really good win the previous week and then had to face a very experienced Cronulla team. I'm not sure how they're tracking but we'll see what they produce this week with their Origin guys back.
6. St George Illawarra Dragons (5)
I don't know if they're getting the wobbles or not but they were really disappointing against the Wests Tigers. It was a big decision to have all their Origin guys back up, but they still had their chances and are they getting a bit shaky? They had a pretty bad performance against Parramatta and won, but on Sunday they just looked like they rocked up and thought they'd just get the job done.
7. Brisbane Broncos (4)
A big slide down the Power Rankings this week. A woeful performance at home and Wayne Bennett would be really upset with that effort. I know they were missing a couple of guys and had guys backing up from Origin, but you can't play like that if you're going to be a contender. The Warriors have a terrible record against top eight teams and the Broncos let them off the hook.
8. Canberra Raiders (8)
They're coming home strong but they'll be ruing all those losses by small margins. It was a tight game against the Cowboys who are never easy and they finished it so strongly. They seem to have finally found a nice mix with Josh Hodgson back but Jarrod Croker is going to be a huge loss for them.
9. New Zealand Warriors (9)
I basically put a line through them last week after that dismal performance against Penrith, but they bounced back in a big way. They went up to a hostile environment in Brisbane and spanked the Broncos. I don't see how the Warriors can win it but if they somehow finish in the top four and play like they did against the Broncos, who knows how far they can go?
10. Newcastle Knights (11)
Mitchell Pearce coming back showed the importance of having a genuine No.7. I don't want to hear anyone saying "we've got two halves". The best teams have at least one dominant half, someone who understands the game and actual game management. Pearce was the difference between those two teams on Friday night.
11. Wests Tigers (14)
Probably the best win over the last month for these sides out of the top eight. I always loved teams having to come there on a Sunday afternoon, and it was a great effort for the Tigers to go into Kogarah on a Sunday afternoon in that tough environment and out-enthuse the Dragons. They showed some of the weaknesses that the Dragons have.
12. Manly Warringah Sea Eagles (13)
Another one of those teams that you don't know what to make of at times, because every now and then they put in a performance. They matched up well twice with Melbourne this year and handled them quite nicely. I liked the effort they put forward, especially the Origin guys backing up.
13. Parramatta Eels (16)
They didn't win but have certainly played a lot better the last couple of weeks with some consistency, and that's why they've moved up the Power Rankings. They've been in the game two weeks in a row and lost heartbreakers but there's some spirit there and it looks like they won't finish with the wooden spoon.
14. Gold Coast Titans (10)
The last two weeks have been disappointing. Ash Taylor looked disinterested against the Roosters and maybe they could look at AJ Brimson at fullback next year. I think they'd benefit from having an older half to help, someone like a Blake Green if they can find someone out there like that. Brimson's playing well but Taylor looks withdrawn and not interested, and the combination isn't working.
15. Canterbury Bulldogs (12)
It's tough to watch some of these teams and it's no different for the Bulldogs. I'm still puzzled how they let Josh Morris jump across to a contender next year. There's going to be some tough times for the Bulldogs before they eventually develop into a powerhouse again.
16. North Queensland Cowboys (15)
They've finally hit rock bottom in the Power Rankings and it was probably inevitable. Week after week it's been spoken about what might've been and what went wrong, and it looks to have caught up with them. You don't want to predict wooden spoon but it's certainly heading that way watching them get blown out at the back end of the Canberra game.