NRL Power Rankings: Round 12 – Panthers back on top, Bunnies off the bottom as premiership enters haphazard rep season


Worshipping false idols is a sin when it comes to Power Rankings and the Cronulla bubble burst in spectacular fashion at Penrith in Round 12.

The Panthers are now back on top of these ranks even if the Sharks still hold a slight edge on the actual premiership ladder.

Take your time, Nathan Cleary. The three-time premiers have the rare luxury of being able to give the game’s best player another week or two once his hamstring has healed to be back in time for the final couple of months of the regular season before their shot at history – a fourpeat, is that a thing? The Connect Four? An Awesome Foursome? 

And there’s also a change at the bottom with South Sydney rising to the dizzying heights of 15th on the back of their victory over Parramatta. 

We now move into the trickiest part of the season – the seven-week stretch when State of Origin tears the competition asunder. 

Top teams can come back to the pack as the rep workload takes effect while the struggling side can make a run if they jag an upset or two but also consign themselves to a miserable existence in the second half of the season if they can’t get going over this stretch. 

Team by team, here’s how the Power Rankings stack up after Round 12.

1 Panthers (last week 2): If they can knock off the first-placed team by 42 with Nathan Cleary out and Liam Martin only playing half the match, imagine how they’ll go at full strength.

Tigers fans should be happy with what they saw from Jarome Luai on Saturday night in the demolition of the Sharks with the five-eighth starring as the chief playmaker.

2 Sharks (1): There were some big danger signs from this loss, not just the 42-0 scoreline. Cronulla averaged a fraction over 30 metres for each set, nearly 12 less than Penrith, and could not come up with a circuit-breaker to reverse the possession imbalance, finishing with a paltry 39% of the ball.

Nicho Hynes’ calf complaint was a contributing factor to their lacklustre display but their concerns are much deeper than a simple muscle strain to their star halfback.

(Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

3 Roosters (5): Their attack is humming with Canberra’s line broken eight times on Saturday on both edges of the ruck. They’ve scored 30 points in five straight matches, including their one loss to Cronulla during that stretch in Magic Round.

All their back five ran for at least 100 metres in dominating the Green Machine while they also had just as many forwards topping that benchmark. 

4 Broncos (3): The warning signs have been there in the lead-up to Sunday’s shocker against the Gold Coast.

Brisbane have been flat for the past month despite racking up wins over Parramatta and Manly after copping a hammering from the Roosters.

With two byes in the next four rounds, the Origin toll will not be too dramatic for them in the short term.

5 Storm (4): They were unusually flat at Brookvale on Friday night and by the time they got into their groove, they were playing from behind. 

With Cameron Munster and Ryan Papenhuyzen sidelined, perhaps Nick Meaney might be a better option at five-eighth to take some of the playmaking burden off Jahrome Hughes as Tyran Wishart and Sua Fa’alogo are more of a running threat.

6 Dolphins (6): It is to be expected that a team that continually over-exceeds expectations will fail to hit the mark on occasions.

These Dolphins aren’t swimming with the big fish yet and they are still without a few key players so Wayne Bennett won’t be panicking in any way shape or form after their slip-up on Sunday in Auckland.

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

7 Sea Eagles (8): After three straight losses, Friday’s upset at home to knock over Melbourne was just what the doctor ordered, particularly after reports emerged about Anthony Seibold getting shirty with the club over contract extension negotiations.

Great to see in this age of players holding picnics on the field after matches that some grudges still exist with Nathan Brown having a running battle with Shawn Blore after they went toe to toe four long years ago when they were both playing for different teams.

8 Raiders (7): They lack the class to beat the top-four sides but they have the grit to grind their way past anyone else.

Young halves Ethan Strange and Kaeo Weekes were targeted in defence but held their own, especially compared to some more-experienced teammates with Elliott Whitehead coming up with nine misses, Hudson Young seven and Jordan Rapana six.

9 Warriors (10): If you didn’t know any better, you’d be forgiven for thinking Addin Fonua-Blake was trying to get an early release from his Warriors deal to join Cronulla like he did when he was at the Sea Eagles to join his current club.

He failed to front for the team song and coach’s post-game address after a win over the premiers because he supposedly needed to “step back and reflect on his own” after not being happy with his performance. Riiiiiiiiight.

Well done to the Warriors on dropping him for Sunday’s boilover win over the Dolphins when the easy option for the injury-hit team would be to fine him or brush it under the carpet.

10 Knights (9): Coming off the bye, they have Canterbury this Friday then Penrith and Melbourne before their next week off. 

If ever there’s a good time to come up against those teams, it’s during Origin season so seventh-placed Newcastle have a glimmer of hope to make a significant move up the ladder over the next month.

11 Bulldogs (11): They are a frustrating side in that they can play without much imagination for 40 minutes and then produce plenty of attacking potency as they did in the second half against the Dragons.

With so many new faces it was always going to take time for Cameron Ciraldo to get cohesion in their combinations and if they stay injury free, they could be big improvers in the second half of the season. 

12 Cowboys (13): Todd Payten’s team has now completed the most uninspiring back-to-back wins of recent memory after sneaking past Souths and conceding 28 points while scoring 42 in a glorified leaguetag tussle with the Tigers.

They will be hard hit during Origin but are in no place to absorb a few extra losses after going 6-6 to start the season.

13 Titans (15): They get a well-earned uptick for not giving two hoots about reputations against the Broncos in Brisbane on Sunday even though they were given little chance of causing an upset by anyone outside their immediate family members.

Des Hasler needs to keep putting faith in younger players that he thinks could be part of the future like Tom Weaver and Keano Kini, and start to snip off some of the ageing deadwood that is withering on this roster.

14 Dragons (12): Shane Flanagan was caught short with four forwards on the bench when Jack Bird hurt his ankle and was being disingenuous when he claimed that it was hard for coaches to have a utility back in their interchange list because it increases the burden on the pack.

Even with Bird missing the second half and Hame Sele only lasting 14 minutes, Raymond Faitala-Mariner (20) and Fa’amanu Brown (21) received limited game time as Flanagan persisted with Tom Eisenhuth defending out wide while not getting a breather.

(Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

16 Rabbitohs (17): With Latrell Mitchell back, Cody Walker likely to return soon and Cameron Murray not too far away, all is not lost for Souths. 

Keaon Koloamatangi bagged two tries in the 16-point win over Parra and the more that interim coach Ben Hornby can get him set up with space or running at weak links in opposition defensive lines, the better for the Bunnies. 

16 Eels (14): The swift removal of Brad Arthur was no surprise given the team’s indifferent form but it’s going to be extremely tough for this team to make the finals even if Mitchell Moses and Clint Gutherson are back in the next week or two.

It’s only the prospect of the Eels possibly reversing their form with a couple of their big guns returning that saves them from the bottom of the rankings.

17 Wests (16): That’s eight straight defeats for the Tigers and more upheaval off the field with Isaiah Papali’i sprinting out the door at season’s end to Penrith with Brent Naden and Jayden Sullivan also being pointed towards the exit.

David Klemmer should be on the list of Tigers being nudged straight outta Concord – his latest three-game ban continues a trend of the veteran prop leaving his team in the lurch while giving little value for money when he’s on the field.

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