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Storm players celebrate.

Eight teams have been trimmed to six, with the Warriors and Broncos bowing out in week one of the finals. Working out who's hot and who's not of the remaining six is no easy task, but NRL.com expert Jamie Soward has given it a crack in this week's Power Rankings.

1. Melbourne Storm (last week: 4)

I had the Sharks winning the comp and still think they can do it, but the Melbourne Storm are going to be hard to beat. They're virtually booked in for the grand final after getting that week off and keeping hold of home ground advantage. They didn't even play their best game, conceding some soft tries to Souths, but still found a way and never looked beaten, and that's the sign of a really good team.

If you checked the Power Rankings at the start of the season you'd see Melbourne were on top and my exact words were "this is the best chance we have seen in 20 years for a team to repeat as premiers", and you'd be a fool to say they can't do it now. 

2. Sydney Roosters (2)

Not overly convincing but still an amazing effort to stay in that game. The Latrell Mitchell judiciary factor potentially makes a big difference because he's been so devastating on an edge and they're going to have to make some key changes there, although he didn't actually see much ball against Cronulla.

The thing about the Roosters is that they're so good defensively. They build their game on it and have so much faith in their defence, and they also build on Cooper Cronk's pinpoint kicking game. I'm splitting hairs between one and two and I think it's down to two teams.

Match Highlights: Roosters v Sharks – Finals Week 1, 2018

3. Cronulla Sharks (1)

The Wade Graham injury certainly hurts them but I saw enough of them without Wade Graham to think they should've won that game. They bombed four tries and were still within one play at the end of equalling up, and they'd be ruing the opportunity missed. All the talk is Matt Moylan v James Maloney this week and it'll be interesting to see how that plays out on Friday night.

I've only got the Sharks rated above South Sydney because the Rabbitohs' game with Melbourne was so epic and had an end to end flow about it. It was different to the Roosters v Sharks clash in that it was mostly limited between the 20-metre lines and there wasn't much attack from either side. It's so hard to pick but I just like what I saw from the Sharks in that second half to think they'll bounce back this week.

4. South Sydney Rabbitohs (3)

I wonder whether they can bounce back from that tough loss to Melbourne. They put so much effort into that game and it's going to be a huge effort to get themselves back up again, especially as they'll go in expected to win against a team that was given no chance against the Broncos and will probably come into this game with no chance.

The expectation will be all on Souths and they have to find a way to recreate that intensity from being one game away from a grand final to two games away. It's going to come down to Anthony Seibold's coaching and Adam Reynolds' shoulder and how they start the game. If the Dragons get a sniff early on Souths will have to chase points. I'd like to see Cody Walker get more ball and more involved because he's just so dangerous and they didn't go to him enough last week.

5. St George Illawarra Dragons (8)

What a performance. No-one gave them a hope. Ben Hunt, who I've criticised in the Power Rankings at times this year, started off a bit questionable with his kicking game but his forwards showed the way and off the back of that his confidence grew. They're going to need him to step up again this weekend, and the real test for Ben Hunt is against the Rabbitohs' big pack.

How he massages the kicking game and how puts them in a position against a dominant side will be crucial. It's going to take a whole team effort but Ben Hunt becomes the most vital piece and that's why he gets paid more than anyone else at the club.

6. Penrith Panthers (7)

That performance against the Warriors is what you expected from the Panthers a bit more consistently during the year. Falling behind 12-2 wasn't great, but in terms of bouncing back and scrambling and defending and playing footy, that's what they'll need to do. They need more of that reckless abandonment to get themselves into the game to compete.

I actually think their style suits them against the Sharks, because the Sharks will grind it out and the Panthers will let it hang. With James Maloney steering the ship, he becomes the most important playmaker out there. Another big challenge this week but last week certainly gets rid a lot of nerves.

 

Experience the excitement of Finals footy this weekend. Get your tickets to week 2 of the 2018 NRL Telstra Premiership Finals Series

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