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NRL Power Rankings: Round 3

NRL Power Rankings: Round 3

How we rank the NRL's 16 clubs at the end of the second round of the 2017 Telstra Premiership season.

1. Storm (Last week: 1)

Like last week, Melbourne played an away game in horrible conditions without the services of champion fullback Billy Slater or star prop Jesse Bromwich. And like last week they prevailed, downing the Warriors 26-10 in Auckland. Their attack was surprisingly slick considering the torrential downpour at Mt Smart Stadium, and they defended strongly with a 14-0 shutout in the second half to secure the victory. They face the Broncos in a blockbuster on Thursday night in their first home game of 2017.

2. Cowboys (Last week: 2)

There's nothing much left to say about the staggering recent rivalry between North Queensland and Brisbane, which once again produced a golden point classic on Friday night. Johnathan Thurston kicked the winning field goal – again – but the win came at a huge cost with Matt Scott, Lachlan Coote and Antonio Winterstein all suffering injuries. The loss of Scott to an ACL injury is the biggest blow considering the club had already lost his old prop partner James Tamou to the Panthers, and will put a lot of weight on the shoulders of Jason Taumalolo (who is facing a suspension himself) and the rest of the pack.

 


3. Broncos (Last week: 3)

Losing at home in yet another heartbreaker against the Cowboys would have stung, and Wayne Bennett's stance on extra time versus 80-minute draws hasn't softened, but Friday night's thriller was the kind of game that could fuel Brisbane to bigger and better things in the weeks ahead. The intensity of the match was stunning considering we're only a couple of games into the season, and it's something most NRL clubs haven't experienced yet in 2017.

4. Roosters (Last week: 5)

Luke Keary has made an early claim to being the signing of the season, racking up three try assists in the Roosters' narrow win over the Bulldogs after scoring twice himself against the Gold Coast last week. The five-eighth has slotted in seamlessly to a glittering Roosters backline, with Mitchell Pearce in fine form, Latrell Mitchell shining after his switch to the centres, Michael Gordon getting the job done at the back and Daniel Tupou the ultimate target man on the left wing. Oh, and on the other side of the field are international duo Shaun Kenny-Dowall and Blake Ferguson – two of the Roosters' best in 2016. Can the Panthers contain them this week?

5. Eels (Last week: 6)

Corey Norman continues to weave his magic at halfback for the Eels and even Michael Jennings was producing miracle passes on Sunday, helping Semi Radradra to a four-try haul in a rout of the Dragons. The Eels are one of four unbeaten teams after two rounds and should keep that going against the Titans this week.

6. Sharks (Last week: 9)

Many critics have all but written off Cronulla's title chances this season, citing both the NRL's infamous premiers curse and the fact they lost a couple of vital players in Michael Ennis and Ben Barba in the off-season. But a 42-16 routing of the highly-rated Raiders in Canberra proves the Sharks are hardly a spent force just yet, with fourth-choice fullback Jack Bird shining at the back and rookie Jayden Brailey doing a good job at dummy-half (with the potential star signing of James Segeyaro still looming). Cronulla were superb in attack and handled the Raiders' monster forward pack with ease and will be tough to beat again this season.

7. Raiders (Last week: 4)

Losing to the reigning champions is nothing to be ashamed of, but the manner of their defeat to the Sharks – and the fact it happened at a packed GIO Stadium in Canberra's first game of the season – made it a real wake-up call for the Raiders. One of the big competition favourites a fortnight ago, the Green Machine have now started the season with two losses, albeit against quality opponents. Still, they'll be desperate to thump the Tigers this week to prove last season's dream run wasn't a one-off.

8. Dragons (Last week: 7)

They blitzed the Panthers a week ago but St George Illawarra couldn't follow it up against Parramatta, producing an error-riddled performance and slumping to a 34-16 loss. At the very least their Round 1 performance means the Dragons know what they're capable of, but they'll need to bounce back quickly if they are to challenge their arch rivals in Cronulla this Sunday. 

9. Panthers (Last week: 12)

That's more like it. After a woeful week beginning with a horror loss to the Dragons and culminating in unwanted headlines surrounding Bryce Cartwright, the Panthers turned on the style to thump a Wests Tigers team that had looked red hot themselves a week ago. After leaking 42 points against a team not renowned for their attacking prowess in the Dragons, Penrith would have been particularly pleased to keep the free-flowing Tigers tryless for 80 minutes.

 

10. Wests Tigers (Last week: 8)

The Tigers are one of several teams to have experienced vastly different results in the opening two weeks of the competition, blowing four try-scoring chances on the way to a 36-2 loss to Penrith after starting the season on fire against Souths. They now have a tough one-two punch coming up against the bruised Raiders in Canberra before facing the Storm at Leichhardt. 

11. Bulldogs (Last week: 11)

Is it possible for a team that made the finals last season to start the year with back-to-back defeats and yet still be exceeding expectations? That's the unusual situation the Bulldogs find themselves in, having followed up last week's six-point loss to Melbourne with a four-point defeat at the hands of the Roosters. That game had appeared over at 22-8 early in the second half but a stirring comeback from the Dogs was almost enough for them to steal the two competition points against the league's most improved side. The effort is there, and with some slight improvements in the execution the wins will start coming.

12. Warriors (Last week: 10)

The Warriors did well to be neck-and-neck with the Storm at half-time in their rain-drenched clash on Friday night, but were held scoreless in the second term to slump to their first defeat of the season. Regardless, they'll take some confidence into a third straight New Zealand-based game to start their campaign, a designated "away" game against the Bulldogs in Dunedin this Friday.

13. Rabbitohs (Last week: 16)

They were bad last week and they were bad for the first 15 minutes against Manly as well, leaking three quick tries. But with Adam Reynolds back in the side and slotting sideline conversions like he'd never been gone, Souths turned things around rapidly with three tries by half-time and another three in the second term to cap a dominant 38-18 win. Alex Johnston did well filling Greg Inglis's shoes at fullback but it was the return to form of Sam and George Burgess that will have lifted Michael Maguire's spirits the most.

14. Knights (Last week: 15)

Sure it happened against a Titans side that was unimpressive last week and lost three players to injury in the first half, but after 19 straight defeats the Knights will take a win any way they can get it these days. In truth, Newcastle's drought-breaking NRL win has looked more and more likely in recent weeks, following a near miss against the Warriors the previous week and some strong performances in the pre-season. They're definitely a better team than they were in 2016, and they're now just one win away from improving on last season's record.

15. Titans (Last week: 13)

It was a week to forget for the Titans, with days of unwanted Jarryd Hayne-related headlines followed by injuries to Hayne, Anthony Don and Karl Lawton in a surprise loss to last year's wooden spooners. They did show admirable courage to stay in the contest until the final minutes despite playing most of the match with a one-man bench. Hayne is set for a few weeks on the sidelines with an ankle injury, but having their star No.1 spend some time out of the spotlight might not be the worst thing for the Gold Coast right now.

16. Sea Eagles (Last week: 14)

With two front-rowers suspended and another two injured, the Sea Eagles were always going to be up against it when they hosted a desperate Souths outfit featuring a couple of Burgess brothers and a fit-again Adam Reynolds. They started fast but faded quickly, beaten by 20 in the end, but rising star Tom Trbojevic provided a ray of sunshine with a stunning 300-metre haul from fullback along with a try and an assist. He'll inspire them to a few wins this season.

 

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