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Soward: Underdogs fight, but don't prosper

The cream has continually risen to the top this season and that was no exception in the first week of the finals as the title race was cut to six teams.

Cronulla and Newcastle showed fight but were eliminated while the Storm and Panthers are one game away from the grand final.

Here's how the Power Rankings stand.

1. Penrith Panthers (Last week: 1)

There were a few concerns against the Roosters with defensive lapses we haven't seen before. That may have been nerves before they settled. Penrith tightened up a bit when the game was on the line and could've made things easier for themselves. But they will have learnt from that and they've advanced to a prelim. I think it will a Panthers-Storm grand final.

2. Melbourne Storm (2)

It was an unusual start against the Eels because Melbourne are usually so sound defensively. They conceded another try from a kick - that may be something to look at for future opponents. But once the Storm clicked into gear they had too much talent. The worry is Cameron Munster's knee.

3. Canberra Raiders (3)

Canberra looked edgy to start with but found their groove to put away the Sharks and set up another match against the Roosters. All the attention will be on that clash this week. Ricky Stuart would have been upset with the 20 points conceded but thrilled with the way halves Jack Wighton and George Williams ran the ball.

Every try from finals week 1

4. Sydney Roosters (4)

The outlier of the weekend. While other top teams conceded an early lead and fought back strongly, it was surprising to see the Roosters go up 10-0 and then struggle. They conceded a few tries they would usually stop with scramble defence. Should have won.

5. South Sydney Rabbitohs (6)

Penrith better watch out because the Rabbitohs have got the style to upset them if they meet. They started slowly against the Knights, perhaps due to nerves, but clicked into gear and have now scored 106 points in two weeks.

6. Parramatta Eels (5)

Parramatta emptied the tank in an admirable effort against the Storm. But if you're not perfect then the elite teams will punish you and that's what happened. Last-play options were a concern again and errors after scoring points will always invite teams back into the contest. Injuries are another worry.

7. Cronulla Sharks (10)

Cronulla underachieved all year but would've finished higher than eighth with more performances like Saturday's gutsy loss to Canberra. They had a plan to bash the Raiders and did so to start the game. Based on the weekend's performance, they're ranked above the Knights.

Get Caught Up: Finals Week 1

8. Newcastle Knights (9)

An OK season and they weren't disgraced by any means. However, the Knights still have a long way to go to be up with the big dogs. Their physicality, emotion levels and ability to play for 80 minutes can improve and a few roster tweaks will help.

 

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