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Soward: Eels not convincing; Panthers reassert authority

Watching the games last round, I really focused on where I could see the grand finalists coming from and who is most likely to snare that eighth spot.

There wasn't much change however as things begin to take shape with only two more rounds before the finals get underway.

1. Melbourne Storm (Last week:1)

Nineteen wins in a row and they've done it different ways. Now the question is: Have Melbourne and Penrith swapped roles from last year?

Have the Storm maybe gone a bit early and need a loss while the Panthers have timed their run perfectly? It's shaping up to be a great finals series.

2. Penrith Panthers (2)

I felt they had another couple of gears to go in a win over the Rabbitohs. They didn't tire. Even when the game was going against them, Penrith clawed it back before half-time.

That was the game they needed; a bounce-back to say they're probably equal favourites for the premiership with Melbourne.

3. Manly Sea Eagles (4)

Weren't overly impressive despite winning, but Manly have another couple of gears when Tom Trbojevic comes back.

Daly Cherry-Evans's kicking game is crucial. It wasn't very good in the first half against the Raiders but he was able to build pressure in the second. He's just as important to the team as Tommy.

4. South Sydney Rabbitohs (3)

Took a drop this week. I was impressed with their first half - that was to be expected after they were embarrassed last time they played Penrith.

But it looked like the Rabbitohs ran out of petrol towards the end of the game. The Panthers kept putting them under pressure and they didn't know how to turn the tide. Back to the drawing board.

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5. Sydney Roosters (5)

A bit of a struggle against the Dragons as they leaked some points, but their class players stood up. The Roosters have been impressive all year.

6. Newcastle Knights (6)

Maybe Newcastle went back a step, but at the moment they're just winning. They know what they have to do and still have their destiny in their own hands. 

A big game coming up against the Titans to cement their place in the eight. The Knights may have timed their run to get a team like Parramatta in the first week of the finals.

7. Parramatta Eels (7)

Was not impressed at all with their win over the Cowboys. I don't think they've solved any of their problems in terms of what they're trying to do to win in a couple of weeks' time.

The excitement meter hasn't moved for me.

8. Canberra Raiders (8)

Probably should've won against Manly. They led and had their opponents on the ropes but weren't able to capitalise.

I feel they got their bench wrong - they carried an outside back and a half on the bench and probably ran out of petrol in the middle towards the end.

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9. Cronulla Sharks (11)

Surprised me by putting 50 points on the Tigers. The Sharks lived up to the hype against a team that didn't.

They now have a chance to make the eight if they beat the Broncos this week and then finish off against the Storm. Like Newcastle, their destiny is in their own hands. 

10. New Zealand Warriors (10)

Should've beaten the Broncos. They had enough skill and talent. Not a great day with the boot for Reece Walsh, but we've all been there.

You get the feeling that if the Warriors can harness what they've had in some of their performances this year, they might be alright in 2022.

11. Gold Coast Titans (9)

What can I say about the Titans that I haven't already? They had a chance to beat Melbourne the other night and then just threw it away with mistakes.

I still think they may make the eight. Their season's on the line against the Knights on Thursday night.

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12. St George Illawarra Dragons (13)

The Dragons probably weren't expected to be in front in the second half against the Roosters.

The disappointing part is they were in a position to win and didn't get it done. But you learn from those opportunities when you're young and I like the look of their youth.

13. Brisbane Broncos (14)

The Broncos that beat the Warriors are the team we need to see week-to-week. I've wanted to see some consistency and I got that at Suncorp on Sunday.

14. Wests Tigers (12)

Once again, the Tigers couldn't live up to the emotion that comes with a big occasion. They're just not built to handle it whenever the focus is put on them.

A slight chance to make the eight and they didn't get it done.

15. North Queensland Cowboys (15)

I nearly had the Cowboys last. Their effort and their team at the moment aren't good. They've got some depth issues going into next year.

I'm really concerned about them.

16. Canterbury Bulldogs (16)

Canterbury's loss to the Knights was one of the few times this year where they tried right until the end and didn't give up or let the game get away from them too much. But they can be a lot better.


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

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