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Soward: Cowboys in trouble; Roosters loom large

The cream has risen to the top after five rounds, the gap in class widening the longer the competition goes on.

Some teams down the bottom just haven't got the depth and consistency to challenge for the finals. I feel like they'll be changing between positions 10 and 16 for the rest of the year.

1. Parramatta Eels (Last week: 1)

The Eels were frustrated in the first half against Penrith; they had little ball and couldn't score points. But the promising thing was they showed patience, eventually coming away with some simple tries just through fatigue. In years gone by, they might have let that game slip. At this rate, grand final tickets might be worth a shout for Parra fans.

2. Sydney Roosters (3)

The Roosters just keep powering on; I love watching them play. If you're a young coach or person studying the game, focus on the Tricolours. I don't expect them to drop any lower than three for the rest of the Power Rankings.

3. Canberra Raiders (2)

Canberra's attack was frustrated on the weekend against an up-and-in defence and they took a while to work it out. The enthusiasm and excitement would have pleased Ricky Stuart, but I'm concerned about their attacking shape. They'll still beat those mid-ranked teams, but it'll be interesting next time they face someone like Melbourne again.

Munster and Smith help Storm surge

4. Melbourne Storm (5)

I think we all forget sometimes how great the Storm are. They've adjusted their game-plan to suit the six-again rule since being beaten by the Raiders two rounds ago. I don't think they've found the right halfback yet - Cameron Smith or Cooper Johns would be my picks - but they're always there or thereabouts. They're good.

5. Manly Sea Eagles (4)

Two slow starts in a row is alarming. They got away with it against Brisbane, but they need to address it. Otherwise, they could fall into the trap of thinking things will always click into place in the second half. Their depth is also being tested now with a few injuries to key players. We know fully fit they're a powerhouse, but it's hard to see them going on a run with limited troops.

6. Newcastle Knights (6)

The Knights received a good gauge of their progress in the loss to the Storm. Maybe they had gotten a touch ahead of themselves, but it was promising to see them fight back into the game. Newcastle would have gained a lot from their start, but I think they still need to put a few more pieces together to be the total package.

7. Penrith Panthers (7)

You can be excited by most of what you saw in the loss to Parramatta if you're a Penrith fan. They competed hard. However, they should have gone on with it after leading 10-0 and I'm still concerned that they rely on Viliame Kikau too much in attacking situations.

Every try from round 5

8. Wests Tigers (9)

I've put the Tigers up a spot despite losing to Canberra. If they can bottle the effort, enthusiasm and excitement from that game, they can give it a good shake. The biggest question is whether they have enough points in them. Luke Brooks needs to step up in clutch moments if Benji Marshall's not going to be there.

9. South Sydney Rabbitohs (11)

I think the Rabbitohs can go on a run here and win three or four in a row. Latrell Mitchell keeps getting better at fullback, while Cody Walker's return got the best out of the players around him. I'm expecting Damien Cook to start figuring out better chances to run with the new six-again rule. They should have put the Titans to the sword more, though, so I'm still watching Souths closely.

Katoa’s family watch him play for the first time

10. Cronulla Sharks (8)

I don't know what to make of the Sharks. On their day they can beat anyone with their skill but they were very disappointing against the Dragons, especially after a gritty win in North Queensland to get their season back on track. 

11. Brisbane Broncos (10)

They're a young team who have some excuses. Once they get everyone back on deck I think they can make the eight, but halfback Brodie Croft is under a lot of pressure. They should not have lost after leading Manly 18-0 - and that comes down to game management.

12. New Zealand Warriors (14)

Nothing makes me happier than seeing a members' email from the Warriors on Monday celebrating a win. This is going to be them all year - they'll beat some teams and they'll have some bad losses. It was nice to see Kodi Nikorima take charge.

13. St George Illawarra Dragons (16)

Maybe they've been listening to us on Inside the NRL. I think Ben Hunt at hooker is a necessity and they can use Cameron McInnes at lock. The Dragons actually looked like they wanted to play and the excitement was there, but the challenge is doing it every week.  

Match Highlights: Bulldogs v Roosters

14. Canterbury Bulldogs (15)

Inconsistency is still a problem and they were outclassed from the start against the Roosters. The pressure is back on Dean Pay.

15. North Queensland Cowboys (12)

I'm really worried about the Cowboys. Maybe I've been a bit harsh because Michael Morgan and now Valentine Holmes and Jordan McLean are injured, but their attack is so structured and so predictable. They're relying on Jason Taumalolo to do everything for them and he can't play three different positions at once.

16. Gold Coast Titans (13)

I expected more after they shook the proverbial monkey off their back with a win over the Wests Tigers. Instead, they regressed a few steps in their defeat to the Rabbitohs.


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

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