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Soward: Dragons, Sharks sneak up; Concerns for Titans, Knights

Everyone's talking about the divide between the good and the not-so-good teams after a round of blow-out scorelines, but that's just the cycle of the NRL.

You've got to feel a bit sorry for the teams that are struggling to get their young talent up to first-grade level. Not everyone can win the premiership every year and sometimes teams underperform.

It's hard to play in the NRL arena week-to-week, so I've been a little lenient on some of the performances in the rankings.

1. Penrith Panthers (Last week: 1)

Penrith continue to be a good, young team after proving themselves last year, but I'm wary of the emotion from losing the 2020 grand final playing on their minds.

Having beaten Melbourne in round three, I think the Panthers will be looking forward to playing some of the other top teams to let them know they are the real deal. That starts against Canberra on Friday - the game of the round.

2. South Sydney Rabbitohs (2)

Professional, disciplined, didn't give up any soft tries to the Bulldogs and Damien Cook found a balance between running and passing at dummy-half in a Man of the Match performance.

That's the key against the big teams. The pack were great and Jai Arrow in particular was fantastic. The only thing that will stop the Rabbitohs from being in the grand final is themselves.

3. Melbourne Storm (3)

Ryan Papenhuyzen - wow. And to think that he played like that while Cameron Munster and Jarome Hughes had pretty good games and the Storm still have Harry Grant to come back.

I've learnt my lesson in the past about discounting Melbourne. I won't be writing them off until they're eliminated from the competition.

4. Parramatta Eels (4)

In the past, the Eels have sometimes struggled once they've strung a few wins together and people start talking them up. This time, they showed maturity to stave off the Wests Tigers on Easter Monday to maintain their perfect record.

They probably should have won this one by more but proved they can win ugly when they need to. 

5. Canberra Raiders (5)

Impressive without being great. Gritty, but I'm concerned about Canberra's last-play options. They don't seem to understand that with a big forward pack, the halves can pick and choose when to inject themselves and how they come up with effective set-ends.

he Raiders aren't doing that at the moment. Still in a premiership window but I'm not as confident as I was.

6. Sydney Roosters (6)

Sam Walker was fantastic on debut. People were quick to write off the Roosters for the premiership because of their injuries, but they've got talent across the board. Now, they've got a whole season to develop their style.

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7. St George Illawarra Dragons (10)

St George Illawarra got some lucky breaks with Newcastle's injury toll but they won despite the fact it wasn't pretty.

You need to find ways to win when things aren't perfect - and there are some teams down the bottom that don't understand that yet. The Dragons are going OK but face another step up in class against the Eels.

8. Cronulla Sharks (11)

Silky. I gave Cronulla some credit last week but dropped the Sharks because teams around them were winning.

Power Rankings are about how a team could grow in the following weeks rather just one-off performances and ladder position, and the Sharks have a good game coming up against the Roosters. If they cause an upset, they could be a top-six team.

Magical offload from Hamlin-Uele has Moylan scoring

9. New Zealand Warriors (8)

Missing a few key guys. Sean O'Sullivan is a nice back-up playmaker, but he's not Chanel Harris-Tavita, who built a solid combination with Kodi Nikorima before getting injured.

The Warriors were outmuscled against the Roosters and Sam Walker tore them to shreds on an edge with his ball-playing.

10. Gold Coast Titans (7)

A massive month could make or break their season. They've got a tough draw and could be missing both their halves for this week at least. Didn't offer much in attack against the Raiders after Jamal Fogarty went off with a quad injury.

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11. Newcastle Knights (9)

I'm worried about Newcastle. Injuries are inevitable and depth is always tested throughout a season, but to lose Mitchell Pearce and then Tex Hoy, who now can't slot in at No.6, is a big blow.

They could fall into the trap of hoping Kalyn Ponga does everything when he returns. 

12. Wests Tigers (13)

Michael Maguire wouldn't have been happy with his team's start against the Eels, although they fought back in the first half commendably. The Tigers are a young squad with some good pieces but they're still learning.

13. Brisbane Broncos (12)

I just wish the Broncos would sort out their halfback situation with Tom Dearden and Brodie Croft. There'd be nothing worse than playing halfback and seeing another half on the bench.

You can't settle into any rhythm, you can't trust what you're trying to do. I don't think it's fair on them.

14. Manly Sea Eagles (16)

Manly weren't good at all against Penrith, but I feel they're more likely than the other struggling teams to win a game here or there with Daly Cherry-Evans and a fit Tom Trbojevic.

Another big test against the Warriors on Friday but they look the best chance of the bottom teams to break their duck.

15. North Queensland Cowboys (15)

Could've been last - in fact, the bottom four teams could all have been in 16th spot. The way some senior players voiced their frustration in the press wasn't healthy.

That's the kind of stuff you keep in-house. I think it's going to get a lot worse for the Cowboys before it gets better.

16. Canterbury Bulldogs (14)

I don't know where Canterbury's answers are in attack. They've got guys playing out of position in the backline, and there's a lot of pressure on halfback Kyle Flanagan to organise everything when the forward pack isn't going forward and the backs aren't taking half-opportunities.


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

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