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Soward: Slippery slope for Eels; Sharks circling

The gap is widening between the top two and the rest but we always learn more during the State of Origin period.

Teams outside the eight without much Origin representation have a chance to go on a run starting in the next couple of weeks.

Here's how the Power Rankings stand after round 12.

1. Penrith Panthers (Last week: 1)

People will say that Penrith only just beat Dogs in the first half, but they may have wanted to just get through that game with players preparing to go into Origin camp. They pulled away in the second half to keep on rolling.

An interesting month lies ahead and I think the Panthers will finally lose a couple of matches. They can recalibrate in round 16 when they face the Eels.

2. Melbourne Storm (2)

Hard to come up with words to talk about Storm. Jahrome Hughes, Brandon Smith and Nicho Hynes have excelled after being given a chance to get the job done without Cam Munster, Harry Grant and Ryan Papenhuyzen.

You wouldn't know that Hynes is trying to sort out his next contract with the way he's playing.

3. Manly Sea Eagles (3)

I left Manly at three because they have winnable games on the horizon regardless of Daly Cherry-Evans and the Trbojevic brothers being selected for Origin.

Things didn't go their way and they weren't great in a loss to the Knights, but one little hiccup won't ruin their form.

Every try from Round 12

4. Sydney Roosters (5)

Really impressed with their next-man-up mentality. Joey Manu, Siosiua Taukeiaho and their leaders stood up to claim an important win. The Roosters are so professional in everything they do and will be a menace in the finals.

They could end up with the easier side of the playoffs draw if they finish fifth and it may be a year to remember for the Tricolours.

5. Rabbitohs (7)

A great win - one they needed to get the media off their back about leaking points. South Sydney also scored plenty themselves.

At this point, they'll be very dangerous in a semi-final against teams in the lower half of the top eight but won't be able to go with Melbourne or Penrith.

6. Parramatta Eels (4)

One of the wheels has fallen off; I'm not sure which wheel yet. Defensively, the last two weeks they've made some poor reads and been disconnected.

They've struggled in attack too. I know Parramatta scored 20 points on Saturday, but South Sydney are conceding an average of 22.6 points per match.

The Eels have been up for a while and are probably looking forward to a rest, but they haven't been good enough to compete with the big guns.

Holmes steps up and nails the long-range field goal for the win

7. North Queensland Cowboys (9)

After a horror start, North Queensland have got it together - a bit like Manly. They know their identity. Yes, the Cowboys have won a couple of close games where they've been poor, but they've also shown a lot of resilience.

I think Todd Payten did the same thing last year at the Warriors. He made his team accountable for their actions.

8. New Zealand Warriors (6)

Missed a golden opportunity against the Cowboys. They need to win those games if they're going to make the eight. The Warriors led by six with eight minutes to go but poor game-management was their undoing.

I still think Reece Walsh is better suited to five-eighth at the moment and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck should return fullback for his defensive work and bringing the ball back.

9. Cronulla Sharks (12)

Cronulla could go on a run after unlocking Shaun Johnson and Matt Moylan in the halves. They looked comfortable and their forward pack always tries hard.

The Sharks have a bye then face the Panthers at the right time leading into winnable clashes with the Cowboys, Broncos and Warriors.

Get Caught Up: Round 12 must-see moments

10. St George Illawarra Dragons (9)

Really had the chance to cement their spot in the eight for the last two weeks, but they've have gone away from their values in that period.

They have a relatively soft draw but it's starting to become do-or-die in terms of making the finals. 

If they let the next couple of games slip against teams they should beat, the Dragons will be on the outside looking in.

11. Wests Tigers (13)

I'm bullish about the Tigers' chances despite a hard month ahead. They get to play the top teams at the right time throughout Origin. The Tigers were outstanding in Friday's primetime game against the Dragons.

12. Gold Coast Titans (10)

One of the biggest disappointments of the year. The Titans have the talent to rescue their season, but four of their next five games are against top-five teams.

They'll benefit from facing sides affected by Origin, but the Gold Coast will lose some of their players as well.

I've previously said the Titans are immature. Maybe this is a "hard lesson" season and the hype isn't as real as we thought it was.

13. Brisbane Broncos (11)

Great effort to beat the Roosters in Sydney last week and then they didn't turn up against the Storm. A huge week for Kevvie Walters to see what's in the kitbag going into a clash with the undermanned Dragons.

It has to be seen to be believed

14. Newcastle Knights (15)

Great win over the Sea Eagles on Sunday but I won't go off too early. The desperation they showed was needed over the past month and keeps them in touch with the top eight, but I need to see consistency.

A tough period coming up with matches against the Eels, Rabbitohs, Warriors, Cowboys and Storm.

15. Canberra Raiders (14)

This could be the lowest I've ever had the Raiders. It doesn't please me. Two weeks in a row they've led 10-0. Then things change and all of a sudden they just don't come out in the second half.

Canberra have issues off the field and within their game and style. I think Ricky Stuart has got to blood new talent and inject some excitement into the side.

16. Canterbury Bulldogs (16)

Tried really hard against Penrith but Canterbury are planning for next year. They need to work out whether they're going to move on from Kyle Flanagan. I haven't seen them get much better, if at all, since he's been out.


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

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