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As we head into the home stretch of the regular season, the difference in class between the top sides and the rest is becoming more apparent.

The Panthers, Eels, Storm and Roosters are operating on another level at the moment, blowing sides away or grinding out tough wins.

However, a couple of injury-hit teams like Manly and Canberra are sticking in the eight and could be dangerous in the finals.

1. Penrith Panthers (Last week: 1)

Sunday's clash against the Titans was a banana peel game. But despite being undermanned, Penrith refused to slip. That showed they've turned a corner as their young guys hung in. Another test comes against Manly this week.

2. Parramatta Eels (2)

Big win in a physical local derby against the Tigers as some troops returned from injury. Mitch Moses was good in spurts in his first game back. Clint Gutherson and Co. need to keep attacking as they were in Moses's absence while the halfback finds his groove.

3. Melbourne Storm (4)

Their ranking is more like 1C rather than third. The Storm seem on track to contend for the title. If Melbourne and the Roosters are healthy, they could well face off in the grand final. Professional, fit, fast, strong and organised.

4. Sydney Roosters (3)

Tough win over a Warriors side with nothing to lose. The Roosters seem a bit tired after a big month of travel and high-intensity games, but they did what they needed to do - and that's the difference. Some teams under them can't get the job done below their best.

Get Caught Up: Round 11

5. Manly Sea Eagles (6)

Here they come. Two wins in a row and all of a sudden Manly are back in finals contention with troops to return. Daly Cherry-Evans and Martin Taupau have led from the front, while Addin Fonua-Blake was enormous in his return from suspension. 

6. Canberra Raiders (8)

Gritty. They're banding together in the face of injuries. Based on their draw, they'll make the eight with their quality. Their attack isn't fluent - but it wasn't fluent last year and Canberra made the grand final.

7. Newcastle Knights (5)

Not much needs to be said - coach Adam O'Brien's brutally honest press conference was what we were all thinking. Newcastle have been rolled by the Cowboys and now Canterbury after looking at the ladder and expecting two points. It doesn't work like that in the NRL.

8. Wests Tigers (7)

I feel sorry for the Tigers, who can't get any luck with injuries. They tried hard enough to keep the pressure on Parramatta, but my concerns are increasing. Looking like they'll just miss the eight again.

Johnson steps off the right and powers over

9. Cronulla Sharks (11)

Cronulla's fate rests in their own hands despite their inconsistency at times. Halfback Chad Townsend would be a big loss if a calf injury sidelines him. Connor Tracey or Braydon Trindall could be options, but it will all rest on Shaun Johnson.

10. South Sydney Rabbitohs (9)

In spurts, South Sydney have looked like tearing the competition apart. Other times they've struggled to adapt on the run. A bounce-back is expected this week, but I think they'll miss the top eight.

11. St George Illawarra Dragons (10)

Their season is done for mine. After leading the Sharks 14-6, the Dragons failed to handle the adversity that came their way. That said, there are some good signs with Zac Lomax and Matt Dufty in outstanding form.

12. Canterbury Bulldogs (12)

The Bulldogs remain on top of the bottom five teams based on effort, which was rewarded with their second win of the year against Newcastle. Used the wet conditions to their advantage. That's their standard now under interim coach Steve Georgallis - and the standard they'll need to have under Trent Barrett next year.

Match Highlights: Knights v Bulldogs

13. North Queensland Cowboys (13)

The Cowboys again gave an encouraging performance against Manly. They lacked a bit of quality at the death, but there's some positive stuff for a new coach to work with.

14. New Zealand Warriors (14)

Gutsy display against the Roosters. The premiers weren't at their best, but the Warriors certainly tried hard. Love what interim coach Todd Payten has done; he's standing up and showing the way forward in their toughest times.

15. Gold Coast Titans (15)

Cruelling themselves of opportunities. Coach Justin Holbrook needs to make a change in the halves - Ash Taylor and Jamal Fogarty can't get their last-play options right. Tanah Boyd should replace one of them.

16. Brisbane Broncos (16)

No reward for trying hard in the first half. If Brisbane are only concentrating on the opening 40 minutes, the problems are deeper than what's being reported.

 

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