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Soward: Eels looking stale; Knights bounce back

The Storm asserted their dominance in a top-of-the-table clash with the depleted Panthers, while there are concerns for the Eels with their top-four spot in jeopardy.

Here are the Power Rankings after round 20:

1. Melbourne Storm (Last week: 1)

The Storm continue to roll on and it looks like they've wrapped up another minor premiership. They're starting to work guys back - Ryan Papenhuyzen, Harry Grant - as they assemble their full-strength side. Melbourne have put new meaning to the word 'professional'.

2. Manly Sea Eagles (3)

I wrote last week that I was worried about Manly's defence - and I still am, because I don't feel like you can concede 24-odd points per game and be a genuine contender. When Des Hasler has taken teams to grand finals and won, they've been very good without the ball.

Attack-wise, the Sea Eagles will be up there, but you need to be able to lean on your defence in big games. But after getting the Sharks out of the way, they can now focus on the Storm and Eels. 

3. Penrith Panthers (2)

Starting to get a little bit worried about the Panthers. Injuries are certainly a key factor in winning a competition; you need a lot of luck.

But defensively, your system shouldn't change even when new players come in. Penrith were probably expected to lose against Melbourne, but when you play like that defensively, sometimes it's hard to flick the switch back on.

Every try from Round 20

4. South Sydney Rabbitohs (4)

Great win over the Dragons. I think Wayne Bennett would have been happy with the second half; they didn't invite the opposition into a contest. Has it moved the needle a little bit? With the way Penrith are going, there might be an opening for the Rabbitohs.

However, I'll know a lot more about South Sydney and if they've turned their defence around, when they play some quality opposition in the next couple of weeks. They'll soon face the Eels, Panthers and the Roosters.

5. Sydney Roosters (6)

Defensively, the win over the Eels was the best the Roosters have played all year. Attack-wise, you can build off that. When you've got injuries, it's easy to bring guys in and show them the game-plan, but if that desperation and scramble aren't there in defence, the attack becomes a problem.

But that wasn't the case last Thursday. They kept turning the Eels away and scored some good tries. Quality in key positions is keeping the Roosters in the competition.

6. Parramatta Eels (5)

Worried for the Eels. They look really stale and tired. It wasn't pretty against the Roosters, and while we all understand you have those off games, they're just limping to the finals now.

Parramatta may have to do it the hard way if they fall out of the top four. They face South Sydney, Manly, Melbourne and Penrith during a tough run home.

7. Newcastle Knights (11)

The Knights are really hard to catch. They should win all five of their remaining matches (against the Broncos, Sharks, Bulldogs, Titans and Broncos again). But you don't know what team you're going to get.

Get Caught Up: Round 20 must-see moments

8. Cronulla Sharks (8)

Cronulla can't risk another slip-up after losing to Manly despite a favourable run home. Now they're only just clinging onto their top-eight spot.

9. Canberra Raiders (7)

After how the Raiders performed last week, their display against the Knights was a letdown. It's make-or-break time now. Canberra have got a really tough run home, but the season is set for someone to jump out of the water and make the finals.

10. Gold Coast Titans (10)

A great win kept the Titans' finals hopes alive. They have a tough draw over the next few weeks with games against the Cowboys, Rabbitohs, Storm, Knights and Warriors to close out the regular season.

Fractured arm could end Hunt's season

11. St George Illawarra Dragons (9)

The month after resting during the bye should have been most profitable for the Dragons. Instead, their season is on the line. If they can't beat the Raiders on Friday night, it's a real uphill battle to make the finals.

12. New Zealand Warriors (13) 

A gutsy, desperate win over the Tigers - the kind of performance you take into the pre-season. But Nathan Brown has some decisions to make. The Warriors will base a lot around Shaun Johnson next year but need to change a few things to challenge for the eight.

13. Brisbane Broncos (15)

We're starting to see what Adam Reynolds will be working with next year in some of Brisbane's recent home performances. They've shown some talent but we'll see how the Broncos go against better teams - and without Kotoni Staggs.

14. Wests Tigers (12)

After the loss to the Warriors, it's a huge five weeks coming up for the Tigers. There will be players under pressure to keep their spots.

Match Highlights: Broncos v Cowboys

15. North Queensland Cowboys (14)

The Cowboys have quickly turned into one of the biggest disappointments throughout the year. They should be pushing for the bottom half of the top-eight.

16. Canterbury Bulldogs (16)

It's been a long season and the Bulldogs will already have an eye on next year. They're learning some tough lessons. 

 

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