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Soward: Boost for Panthers; Rabbitohs fix defence

While there wasn't much movement in the top six of Power Rankings this week, I'm a little bit clearer on what the first-round finals match-ups could look like.

Round 21 also provided more clarity on how the top teams are faring in their bid to knock off the Melbourne Storm.

1. Melbourne Storm (Last week: 1)

They continue to do everything the right way. It was a big game against Manly - they weren't at their best but still proved too strong.

How they put together the pieces of the puzzle with Ryan Papenhuyen, Nicho Hynes and Harry Grant - because they'll probably need one more forward back in - is an interesting storyline.

2. Penrith Panthers (3)

A confidence-boosting win over the Roosters. The Panthers needed to do it without Nathan Cleary and get their defence right. Against a side with plenty of weapons, it was a good result for their young guys.

3. South Sydney Rabbitohs (4)

A really good run home with three winnable games and then a clash with Penrith in which they'll be looking for revenge.

The Rabbitohs are an attacking powerhouse and I think they've fixed their defence having only conceded 48 points in the past three matches. Looking good.

Get Caught Up: Round 21 must-see moments

4. Manly Sea Eagles (2)

A drop for Manly because I feel they learned a lot about themselves in a loss to Melbourne. I could've rewarded their performance, but I'll get another read on whether they're made for finals footy against the Eels.

If they come out and win this weekend, that proves the form of what I'm thinking. But if they lose, it raises the question of whether the Sea Eagles have peaked a little bit early on their run. 

5. Sydney Roosters (5)

The Roosters continue to compete and push teams all the way. They're not going to be an easy out in the finals. I don't think they can win the chip, but they'll be competitive enough to cause an upset.

6. Parramatta Eels (6)

The premiership window was open throughout the middle of the year, but the Eels have since fallen off the wagon.

If they lose again this week, they're out of the top four. They just don't look confident at all; a shell of the side we saw earlier in the season with a tough run home.

7. Newcastle Knights (7)

Newcastle's fate is in their own hands. If they play to their potential, they're going to make the top eight. If they're inconsistent like they have been, they're going to miss out. But they certainly have the quality to do it.

Play your part this Harvey Norman Women in League Round

8. Canberra Raiders (9)

Really tough run home. Beating the Dragons on Friday certainly helped the Raiders, but I feel like the game they let slip against the Knights in round 20 could come back to bite them. 

9. Gold Coast Titans (10)

With two hard games against the Rabbitohs and Storm coming up, we'll really see where the Titans are at. It's all good and well to beat the teams you're supposed to, but I want to see what it looks like against some quality opposition.

10. Cronulla Sharks (8)

I think their season's done. Cronulla may still make the finals, but they often don't turn up in winnable games. They have three more of those matches before facing the Storm, who might rest some players.

But the Sharks always make it look hard and I can't trust teams like that.

Every try from Round 21

11. New Zealand Warriors (12)

Really gritty and gutsy, winning back-to-back games they probably shouldn't have won. The Warriors still don't look organised but there's enough there for Nathan Brown to work on in the off-season.

12. St George Illawarra Dragons (11)

As I've said previously, the way the Dragons have come out after the bye has been disappointing. Their season pretty much rested on winning some of those games and they haven't done it.

They're struggling at the moment and have a really tough run home.

13. Wests Tigers (14)

Scrappy game against the Bulldogs, but it was one they had to win to keep their slim finals hopes alive. I still think they're done.

14. Brisbane Broncos (13)

The Broncos probably should have beaten the Knights. But they're just not consistently good enough at the moment. The bottom three teams are just waiting for the season to finish.

15. North Queensland Cowboys (15)

It's a disappointing finish for a team that has talent. The Cowboys don't know their style - and I don't know if they knew it at the start of the year or if they found it. I can't believe what I'm seeing from them.

16. Canterbury Bulldogs (16)

I think the Bulldogs are getting worse. They're really loose. You sort of know they'll let you score 30 points, you just have to make sure that you're switched on. The end of the season can't come quick enough.

 

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

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