Soward: Sea Eagles soaring; Dragons hit rock bottom

As we approach the home straight, the top eight is starting to sort itself out. The weekend's results were revealing and it looks like there are only one or two spots up for grabs.

1. Melbourne Storm (Last week: 1)

They don't give anybody anything. They went away with key players out resting and did the job against a Titans team that came out and had something to play for. They were a little off their game defensively in the first half but they fixed that and showed why they're leading the comp with a convincing win. The Storm are probably just in front of the Roosters to win the title.

2. Manly Warringah Sea Eagles (3)

This team just continues to grow in confidence and they have a lot of guys in good form. They've basically got three of the top 10 or 15 players in the game in the Trbojevic brothers and DCE, and with those three guys humming combined with the contributions Des Hasler gets from the other players every week Manly can do anything this year.

3. Canberra Raiders (2)

A great win at home on Old Boys Day. It looked like they would run away with it early but they had to get gritty and work hard for it in the second half. There might still be some questions about their game management in big games but they're doing everything they can at the moment to cement a top-four spot.

4. Sydney Roosters (4)

They knew they had to get up for that game and Trent Robinson got the response he wanted. I expect them to click into overdrive and we'll start to see the best of the Roosters over the next month. We might not necessarily see it in every game but we'll certainly see glimpses of what we can expect from them in September.

5. South Sydney Rabbitohs (5)

They weren't at their best on Saturday night but they kept the game close in typical Wayne Bennett style. They then have the match-winners to get them home. Their game management to get three tries in the last 10 minutes was impressive and that's what keeps Rabbitohs fans confident. Damien Cook may need a rest but I'm liking what I'm seeing in the Bunnies.

6. Penrith Panthers (6)

They were fantastic last Friday, way better than their opposition. They're clearly on a roll now but the question is when is that slip-up coming? Or is the slip-up not coming? Hopefully for Panthers fans if there is a slip-up that it doesn't come in week two of the finals.

7. Cronulla Sharks (9)

I know they're probably a little bit high given their recent run of form but they're so close without winning and I have to keep that judgement that they're still going to be okay. They should've won that game against the Warriors but I still see them making the top eight. Having said that, they're just holding on and this is the last chance I'm giving them.

8. Parramatta Eels (8)

I'm going to put it down to a bad day in front of a big "Brookie" crowd but the Eels still have a worrying tendency to leak points in big games. When you're down 6-0 and then get in front 12-6 you can't just suddenly let in four tries. If you want to be a finals team you need to be better than that. Once again the curse of playing away from Bankwest strikes the Eels.

9. Newcastle Knights (7)

A worrying time for the Knights. Got themselves right in the game against the Roosters but they simply couldn't stay with them when the premiers went to another level in the second half. Now they're teetering on spoiling a good opportunity. They need the guys who didn't play Origin to get excited and help carry the load.

10. North Queensland Cowboys (10)

They've had a few losses in games they should've probably won and that horrible finish against Souths was definitely one that got away. If they had won that game they were a chance of making the top eight. It was a real lesson in game management from Reynolds and Walker for Jake Clifford.

11. New Zealand Warriors (12)

A gritty come-from-behind win in New Zealand against the Sharks and it was probably a game I expected them to lose. I don't know if it's the kind of performance that will get Warriors fans too ambitious but it keeps them in the hunt for a top-eight spot and it was nice to see them hang in there.

12. Brisbane Broncos (13)

Still got a heartbeat but they're really going to rue that draw against the Warriors. They did what they were supposed to do against the Bulldogs and I don't know if they'll back it up this week, but they have a pretty good run home.

13. Wests Tigers (11)

Every week for the last month we've been saying their season is on the line and they keep coming up empty. To keep Canberra scoreless after half-time and not capitalise on a fantastic second half from Moses Mbye must've been disappointing for Michael Maguire and it has probably sealed the Tigers' fate.

14. Canterbury Bulldogs (14)

Did well to win a couple of games but we've pretty much come to expect that let-down from a young, mostly inexperienced side. They've still got some players learning to play first grade and that showed in that performance against the Broncos.

15. Gold Coast Titans (16)

It's tough as a player to come out and concentrate with everything that's been going on. Their first 15 minutes showed they do have a good roster and they just need a disciplinarian up there to help sort things out.

16. St George Illawarra Dragons (15)

It really pains me to say this but the Dragons have been really disappointing and their season has slipped away. It was a big call to rest your most expensive player on a night when you simply have to go out and win. The Dragons haven't been up to scratch this year.

 

The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.