Soward's Power Rankings: Roosters reign; Panthers bounce back
Improbable comebacks, crazy upsets - round 20 of the 2018 Telstra Premiership served up a bit of everything. The Roosters and Storm continued to surge, while the Rabbitohs and Panthers got out of jail in games they never looked like winning. Check out NRL.com expert Jamie Soward's views in this week's Power Rankings.
1. Sydney Roosters (last week: 1)
Over the last month we've seen what they can actually do with the footy when they take some structure out. They're not running the fancy plays, they're just out-competing their opposites and making sure when they get in position they're finishing sets. Off the back of that Latrell Mitchell just gets the ball and runs over the top of five blokes. They're really clicking at the moment and the Roosters look like they're brewing something special.
2. Melbourne Storm (2)
Just an absolute demolition job on the Raiders. Such a professional outfit and they're great at winning the big moments. Cameron Smith is just marching on and steering this team around, they were defensively sound all across the field against the Raiders and they showed if they get a home semi-final they're a big chance to go back to back.
3. South Sydney Rabbitohs (3)
Sometimes when you're not playing well you need your big players to step up and they did that at the end. If they win the premiership it's not a game they'll put on the DVD highlights, but they showed in that second half they have match-winners all over the field and they're still one of my favourite teams to watch. I just wonder what the last couple of months has taken out of them.
4. Cronulla Sharks (4)
A tough loss to Brisbane but they showed enough that they're going to be in and around the mark in those tight games. They've won so many tight games this year that they were probably due to lose one, but I don't see if affecting their confidence or mindset going into this week's clash with Manly.
5. Penrith Panthers (7)
Have no idea how they won a game they probably didn't deserve to win, but it showed a lot of character to come back the way they did. It was a big move to get Tyrone Peachey back to fullback and it paid dividends, and my query is do they stick with that against the big teams that are going to be a lot smarter? The Panthers should roll on from a win like that and go four from four over the next month.
6. Brisbane Broncos (6)
A good, tough win against a good Cronulla team. They got lucky with Chad Townsend missing that conversion but this young pack just keeps turning up and to beat an experienced side like that will help them. That's twice they've got the Sharks this year. The Broncos can be real dangerous if Kodi Nikorima and Anthony Milford continue to get it right at the crucial stages, which they have done lately.
7. St George Illawarra Dragons (5)
Confusing to watch that game against the Roosters. With the amount of pressure they built they should've come up with more results. I've been critical of their game management and their kick selection was very poor early on, and the Roosters pounced on that and defended what the Dragons offered very easily.
8. Newcastle Knights (10)
Didn't win but I just love the way they're playing at the moment. Kayln Ponga and Mitchell Pearce in the halves next year for mine, with Connor Watson being that valuable utility. If they'd kept Nick Meaney they would've had a nice spine. Like the Tigers, the Knights will be next year's big movers.
9. New Zealand Warriors (9)
Just diabolical. Could've had them a lot lower. I don't want to be too harsh but certainly, there's some worrying signs there. It looks like it's going to be a quick finals series for them if they can't win in Australia. Can't afford to just limp into the finals. Face a big game this week against the Dragons.
10. Wests Tigers (8)
Much like the Raiders in that they are counting games and depending on results and it's a situation both teams could've avoided. The Tigers let a game slip that is going to prove very costly. I'm predicting 2019 will be their year with a full pre-season together and they go forward strongly from there.
11. Canterbury Bulldogs (13)
A gritty win, and they're good for this kind of performance about once a month, but the challenge is being consistent. Their young halves have steadily found their feet and need to do it week to week. The Dogs are still not clear of missing the spoon if they don't string a couple of wins together.
12. Canberra Raiders (11)
Close against the Sharks the previous week when they still had a fighting chance of making the top eight and went to Melbourne and looked deflated. They had to run out of time soon and it caught up with them on the weekend. But won't be the first or last side to go down to Melbourne and get touched up.
13. Gold Coast Titans (15)
I can't catch them. One week they're dreadful and the next week they beat a top-eight side by 30 points. An outstanding win at home with a big second-half performance and they need that as a base for next season and have to work hard to become a force at home on a regular basis.
14. North Queensland Cowboys (16)
A great win at home. JT and the boys are trying to get away from that dreaded wooden spoon and even though some of the weekend results didn't help them, it was a gutsy performance and they pulled out a win in a game against a handy Newcastle side, and it was a game they would've lost earlier in the year.
15. Parramatta Eels (12)
Played well against one of the heavyweights but couldn't go on with it. But that inability to complete games was really highlighted and it showed why they're struggling this year. That performance of good with bad really sums up their season.
16. Manly Warringah Sea Eagles (14)
One of two teams to throw away a game over the weekend. Another disappointing loss at home and the Brookvale factor has really gone missing this year. It was disappointing to watch them lose that way given how well they played for such a long part of that game.