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Soward: Injuries hurt Roosters; Panthers rebound

As we head into the rep round, there's still a hot battle on for the seventh and eighth spots while the elite teams remain in a league of their own.

There is some movement at the lower end of the rankings, with the Raiders and Wests Tigers heading in opposite directions.

Here's how the Power Rankings stand after round 15:

1. Melbourne Storm (Last week: 1)

A scary sight for Blues fans was Cameron Munster finding form in an 80-minute performance. The Storm were just sensational. They completed, they respected the game and turned on the points, which was great.

A few injuries, though, so I've got a bit of a watch on that, and big Nelson Asofa-Solomona is set to be suspended. I'm expecting the Panthers to kick back and challenge for the No.1 spot.

2. Penrith Panthers (2)

Could've had them back at No.1. I don't really have one and two with the Panthers and the Storm - I think they're both at the top.

Penrith needed to make a statement after two losses and did against a powerhouse in the Roosters. Nathan Cleary, Jarome Luai and co. will bounce into Origin camp off the back of a winning week which is good for NSW.

3. Manly Sea Eagles (3)

Diabolical first half. But Manly showed when they held the ball that they were far superior to the Titans. Really impressive to see what they did in the second half. 

Get Caught Up: Round 15 must-see moments

4. Parramatta Eels (5)

Started slowly against the Bulldogs and I was getting ready to whack them down to seventh or eighth. But the Eels got the job done in the second half. They continue to win ugly in certain situations and put themselves right in the premiership frame. 

5. South Sydney Rabbitohs (6)

Did what they were supposed to do against the worst team in the comp after a bit of a slow start. The Rabbitohs feel like they've arrested their defensive problems but haven't been challenged. They will be over the next few weeks.

The litmus test is against the Panthers in round 20. That's going to be their grand final in showing where South Sydney sit and whether they've readjusted.

6. Sydney Roosters (4)

Most disappointing loss of the weekend. Led 12-0 and it felt like they were coming to get the Panthers. But they just don't have the cattle at the moment to wrestle back games against the best.

The Roosters are missing some guys that, if they were out there, would put them back in championship contention. But it looks like they may have come to the end of their run against the big teams.

Every try from Round 15

7. Cronulla Sharks (7)

On a roll and in a groove. The Sharks are attacking well. Defensively they're still loose and leak points, but they're probably the pick of the middle-ranked teams in terms of consistency and form. I had to reward that.

8. St George Illawarra Dragons (9)

Defeated the Raiders, but I wasn't overly impressed with their first half. The challenge for the Dragons is coming up against a Warriors team they should beat in two weeks. That will decide whether they start consistently moving up the ladder or they continue on the rollercoaster.

I docked St George Illawarra a point or two because of their inconsistency, though they did well to win the second half.

9. North Queensland Cowboys (8)

Should have beaten the Sharks at home. The Cowboys will rue that one, though they've won a couple of tight games themselves that they mightn't have deserved this year.

From positions 9-12, they're all on a boat of maybe competing for one spot. North Queensland will need to be better than what they showed on the weekend. Another slow start.

Turbo leaps high and beats Campbell for his double

10. New Zealand Warriors (10)

The Warriors know how to lose close matches. They had their chances to beat the Knights and I questioned their game management towards the back-end of the contest.

Now Reece Walsh has been selected for Origin and I don't know if Nathan Brown will back the youngster up in Round 16. 

11. Canberra Raiders (13)

The Raiders are in the same boat as the Knights and Warriors. They tried really hard and mounted a good lead against the Dragons but were missing some finesse and grind to finish the game off.

12. Newcastle Knights (15)

Interesting one. Got Mitchell Pearce back and secured a big win in tricky conditions. If they can get everyone on the field at the right time, the Knights may be able to make a run.

I was most impressed with Newcastle because they needed to show something at home and I didn't think they'd get the job done. They did, so I rewarded them.

13. Gold Coast Titans (11)

The Titans are what I've been saying they are for the past eight weeks – immature. You don't lead 24-8 over the Sea Eagles (or 22-0 against the Broncos) and get run down.

It's almost impossible to concede 48 points in 31 minutes but they're the team that can do that. Gold Coast are done for the year.

14. Canterbury Bulldogs (16)

Got flogged by the Eels, but I feel like the Bulldogs are building something for next year. I liked what I saw in the first half.

Yes, they're still learning; yes, they conceded a lot of points, but if you put a bit more quality in the outside backs Canterbury have potential. I still think they're a bit light-on for forwards though.

Buderus on the hidden benefits of the Big Three trek

15. Wests Tigers (12)

Completely outclassed by the Storm. The Tigers need to make some tough decisions on player personnel because that game wasn't up to NRL standard.

16. Brisbane Broncos (14)

Not any better than last year. Probably worse. We keep hearing about their roster overhaul but it feels like a long 2020 has turned into 2021.


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

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