Soward: Cream rises to top; Panthers, Warriors fight back

The last couple of weeks we've said the competition is down to five, but it may well be down to four. The four big guns that played on Sunday seem like they're in a class of their own.

1. Melbourne Storm (last week: 2)

Simply outclassed the Rabbitohs and that man Cam Munster came up with the big plays. The signs are all there that we're going to see a re-match of last year's grand final against the Roosters. Melbourne have skill all over the park, they compete on every play and everyone does his job. They're good because they don't over-complicate things and they play every play. An amazing win on the road and they deserve to be back at No.1.

2. Sydney Roosters (4)

Here come the Roosters! An outstanding win in Canberra against a Raiders team that wanted to prove its premiership claims. The Roosters are still light on for forwards and have struggled with injuries that have prevented them playing their best footy, but that was the kind of game they needed to remind everyone in the competition that "hey we're the champs and we're still here".

3. Canberra Raiders (3)

The loss to the Roosters wasn't one they wanted or needed, but they weren't far off and it won't hurt their confidence. More importantly, you seem to learn more from losing those games than you learn from just beating teams you should beat every week. It is a concern for Ricky Stuart that they're conceding over their defensive average against the top echelon sides. They've got a tough run home and are pretty much playing finals footy from now until the end of their season.

4. Manly Warringah Sea Eagles (1)

Quite a drop from top spot but they didn't aim up against the Warriors in the way we've become used to. The other sides around them performed better on the weekend. On a positive note, they showed they're a quality team by getting back in it late. But you need to be in the top four to win this comp and they'll rue that missed opportunity.

5. Parramatta Eels (5)

They're just dangling out there like a little carrot and we just have to wait and see if we're tempted to bite. It was a tough, gritty game and they showed they can fight when they fell behind and faced some pressure, but I'm just still holding on them. I want to see them in a big game against a top side and see what they come up with.

6. South Sydney Rabbitohs (6)

A better effort than what they delivered against the Sharks, probably the best game they've played in the last six weeks in terms of energy and determination. They can take some valuable stuff out of that game against Melbourne and Wayne Bennett will know he's got a team to work with now.

7. Penrith Panthers (9)

They've got a tough run home but you wouldn't put it past these young kids, and they get James Maloney back from suspension. The young guys bring some real excitement to the group and congratulations to all three debutants. No club - certainly in Sydney - does a better job of bringing local juniors into first grade.

8. Cronulla Sharks (7)

I'm really disappointed with the Sharks. You look at that great win over Souths the previous week and wonder if it was a mirage. They go from looking like a team that can make a serious run at the top sides to not really turning up against Penrith. They went out with a poor attitude and the young kids for the Panthers out-enthused them.

9. Brisbane Broncos (10)

Got out of jail and it'll be interesting to see if they have a new lease of life. They have a big game against the Panthers this week and whether that kicks them into gear and they start playing footy, I guess we'll soon see. Unfortunately, the problem for the Broncos is that they don't have a halfback.

10. Wests Tigers (8)

A golden opportunity missed. They had circumstances go against them with key injuries and it really tested how they perform under adversity. Unfortunately, they just came up short and it's probably going to be a very expensive loss. Everything for the Tigers now rests on Robbie Farah being able to make a return.

11. Canterbury Bulldogs (11)

The first half against the Tigers was probably the most boring half of footy we've seen, but in the second half the Dogs came out and threw the ball around, and that's what they have to do. They need to play a style that will give their fans something to be excited about for the rest of the year and recruit well for next year.

12. New Zealand Warriors (12)

A great bounce back and Stephen Kearney would be very happy to see his team respond so well in a game they simply had to win. But are they going to be able to make it last? They've got the hardest run home and I don't see them making the eight, but it was good to see them finally get a scalp in New Zealand.

13. Newcastle Knights (13)

A game that they could've won but they're just not good enough. They haven't been able to put good footy together consistently over the last two months and they're going to pay the price and miss the finals. The Knights could've been a top-four side and should've been at least a top-eight team. They've only got themselves to blame.

14. North Queensland Cowboys (14)

Three wins at home in front of your fans all year is just not good enough. They should've been able to wrap that game up against Brisbane but they look like they've forgotten how to win. It hasn't been a good year for the Cowboys and they certainly need to fix some things in the off-season.

15. St George Illawarra Dragons (15)

Yes, they got a win but it was against the Titans and it was hardly convincing. It was a disappointing crowd and the fans really voted with their feet in terms of how disappointed they are in the team. Congratulations to James Graham for 400 games, he's been a fantastic player in NRL and Super League, but that was the only highlight.

16. Gold Coast Titans (16)

The Titans have wrapped up the wooden spoon for 2019. They've shown at stages throughout the season that they're just not up NRL standard. It's been a really tough year and they've pretty much got the biggest pre-season in club history coming up under Justin Holbrook.

 

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