Soward: Sea Eagles stay on top; Parra start to matter

Results from Round 20 basically confirmed what we said in last week's Power Rankings - that it's down to five teams. However, I was impressed with one side outside the top five that I think can make a run.

1. Manly Warringah Sea Eagles (Last week: 1)

At half-time against the Knights, I had them down a spot from last week, but they changed that in the second half with a very clinical display. It was a banana peel game because the Knights needed to win, but Manly were professional enough to be able to get through it and they continue to be a premiership threat.

2. Melbourne Storm (2)

Very close to being back at No.1 but Manly did enough to stay on top. For the Storm to go up to Brisbane and put the Broncos to the sword the way they did was very impressive. It was a classic, ruthless, Melbourne performance and I still feel the loss they had to Manly will do them more good than harm.

3. Canberra Raiders (3)

A potentially tough trip to New Zealand and I expected them to get the job done but not as emphatically as they did. They certainly went over there with a very professional effort and mindset and it showed in their performance. They held their defensive structures and their attack flowed. The Raiders are trending nicely.

4. Sydney Roosters (5)

Back into form with a thrashing of the Titans but the true challenge for the Roosters lies ahead, and they know that. They know they started the season as champs and everyone's been up for them all year, and they look forward to this time of year with the big games coming up.

5. Parramatta Eels (6)

Went into a tough environment at Kogarah and it was good to see them prepared to grind it out and build a win around defence, especially being away from Bankwest. Great effort to hold the Dragons to four points. Mitch Moses deserved the big contract that he got and Parra fans can be happy about the prospect of playing finals footy.

6. South Sydney Rabbitohs (4)

I'm a bit worried about the Rabbitohs. I still think they're among the top five teams that can win the competition but they've come out of Origin and still haven't got back to playing their best footy. They didn't get off the bus on Saturday and their form has been very sketchy. If you're a Rabbitohs fan you want to see them fix it with a performance rather than a result.

7. Cronulla Sharks (7)

Wade Graham is the best back-rower in the world when he's fully fit, and what he did against that Souths side on Saturday night proves that. The Sharks were outstanding and showed why they're a team that can make noise if they're at full strength. A special mention to Aaron Woods for a fantastic game.

8. Wests Tigers (12)

The biggest movers I've had in a while. If they can bottle that enthusiasm and energy they had against the Cowboys and finish the season strongly they may be able to cause some damage in the first week of the finals, but they're just a tier lower than those top teams.

9. Penrith Panthers (8)

The Panthers look to have gone off the boil. It could've been a real statement game for them to turn up after losing to the Raiders the previous week. But instead of going out and maybe even cementing their spot going forward, they just weren't good enough and the signs aren't promising.

10. Brisbane Broncos (9)

A really disappointing year for Anthony Seibold. The Broncos are right up there with the Knights and Dragons as the biggest underachievers of the year. They need to sort out their halves. If you're going to pay Anthony Milford all that money to play fullback then you need to invest in a halfback and work out if Darius plays in the centres or not, because it's just not working.

11. Canterbury Bulldogs (14)

An outstanding win against a side that's been rolling. Their defence and desire to win the game was great. As we've noted all year they're going to get themselves in games through their defence and other weeks they're going to be hammered just through being young and inconsistent. At least there's some light at the end of the tunnel for Dogs fans.

12. New Zealand Warriors (10)

For everyone that commented on why the Warriors weren't higher in the Power Rankings throughout the year, that display against the Raiders sums it up. They've lost six in a row at home and it's just not good enough for the fans of New Zealand.

13. Newcastle Knights (11)

Nathan Brown is in the hot seat. This is a squad that I picked to come fourth but their performances out of Origin quite simply haven't been up to scratch. They're a long way from the form they showed during their earlier hot streak and they're competing with the Dragons as the biggest underachievers of 2019.

14. North Queensland Cowboys (13)

They've really fallen away. Some weeks they look like the team that will grind it out and be on the front foot going forward, and then other weeks they're really disappointing. They had a chance to make the finals before the weekend but I was very disappointed in their performance against the Tigers.

15. St George Illawarra Dragons (15)

Kogarah was buzzing like both sides were in the top four but the Dragons failed to deliver again. With Widdop, Hunt and Norman only combining for four points, it just sums up the Dragons' season. Plenty of questions need to be asked of this club in the off-season.

16. Gold Coast Titans (16)

Embarrassing. Yes they've gone through some adversity but it's still 13 on 13 and regardless of who you're playing you need to put in an effort. Hopefully, that was rock bottom against the Roosters and they turn it around with a serious effort over the final five weeks.

 

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