With only the lowly ranked Eels and Cowboys to come in this Round 18 of NRL action, the Power Rankings are in early with the Dragons standing alone heads and shoulders above everyone, after their nearest rivals the Panthers slumped to a shock loss at home.

The Roosters continue to press their claims, winning back to back games – along with the NZ Warriors and Knights winning several games on the trot.

In many cases, the NRL is becoming a tale of two halves of the season.

Early pacesetters are drifting and write-offs are starting to find form and string wins together. It all adds up to an exciting race to the finals from here:

1. Dragons – Despite being out-defended by Penrith last weekend
the St George Illawarra side are probably the only side that
has produced consistency all year. They totally deserve top
spot and given the Storm are out of contention, this mob
has a mortgage on the NRL trophy. (Shhhh, don’t get nervous now!)

2. Panthers – Hang on to their high ranking despite a poor home
loss to the NZ Warriors. Will hope to put it all down to an ‘off’
day – but given the amount of ball they had, they should have
scored 40 points in this game. Interesting to see how they respond
next week.

3. Roosters – Probably deserved to win their game against Souths
by more points. Their squad looks extremely well balanced and they
are seemingly improving every week. Well positioned on the ladder
and can really stitch things up in the coming weeks.

4. Wests Tigers – While they haven’t been blowing sides away in
recent weeks, they’ve still been winning which is what counts at
the moment. Would take a points stripping saga to stop this mob
from making the finals for the first time in 5 years. Yes, one
‘relative unknown’ Mr. King could be popping champagne corks
in a few months time.

5. Souths – With such an explosive forward pack, the Bunnies are
no pushover this year. They’ve played some great footy, but is there
a magic ingredient missing before they can go all the way? Plenty of
responsibility falls on Sandow/Sutton to seal the deal.

6. NZ Warriors – Continue as the late season surgers of the NRL. Have
bagged three on trot, iced the cake today with a hard fought win over
the Penrith Panthers away from home. With such youth and belief, who
knows where this journey could end up?

7. Broncos – They’ve been going about their business for quite a few
weeks now. They’ve learnt how to win again, their speedy, athletic
outside backs are tough to contain. With Hodges due back very soon
don’t forget about this Brisbane outfit when finals are here.

8. Titans – The big losers in this weeks power rankings. Sure, they
only lost by a tiny margin to the Wests Tigers – but the Gold Coast
have been misfiring for a while now. Fortunately for them, a solid
start to the season has them in a salvagable ladder position. Their
advantage is they boast the most NRL experience of all teams in the

9. Manly – In a similar story to the Titans, they’ve lost their way
in recent weeks. Their lack of endurance in the back end of games has
continued all season – this must be a massive frustration to Des Hasler
who many believe to be a fitness nazi. Risk slipping into oblivion at
the current rate.

10. Bulldogs – Have found something in recent weeks, a strong win over
the Storm will do wonders for their confidence. Have lacked speed in
the forwards this year, their ruck speed along with charges have been
all too predictable. With Ben Barba now in the side, they have quality
at 1,6,7 and 9. The magic ingredients for success in NRL.

11. Knights – Have quietly notched up 3 wins on the trot to give
themselves hope of a finals berth. Defence has been a noted improvement
by Newcastle and they enjoying having a fit, healthy and elusive Kurt
Gidley create havoc for opposing sides.

12. Raiders – Setup an unlikely win this week to keep themselves in the
mix. Have a great group of young stars coming through in the ACT and with
the upcoming re-signing of Josh Dugan – the future looks strong. Their
forwards are well balanced and the team has a rare fighting spirit.

13. Eels – It has been a forgettable year so far for last years Grand
Finalist. With their marquee signings not providing the improvement
the side hoped for. Their League worst attack is a serious restriction
on their chances, but after what they did last year – who is game
enough to write them off?

14. Sharks – I genuinely fear for the future of the Sharks. One gets
the feeling that the poor results could one day break the back of
the Shire based club. Several years of poor crowds, sponsorship
problems, financial hardships and lack of direction would certainly
have the NRL concerned.

15. Cowboys – Trying to salvage some pride and confidence for next season.
Who knows whats been going on up North for the past few years? The
concerns run deeper here given this is an aging squad; with Bowen, Williams,
Webb and O’Donnell not spring chickens anymore. Time for massive cleanout.

16. Storm – Effects of their ban are starting to be felt surely. Have
toiled hard for no reward, but recent losses are very un-Storm-like.
Suggestions that Inglis could be off to Brisbane could distract this
champion side even more.

By ricky

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