NRL Ladder predictions: Top 6 unchanged, Warriors up to 7th.

Stat of the week: In the first half against the Titans, Manly fullback Tom Trbojevic ran for 166m compared with 171m for the entire Titans forward pack.

Round 6 (NRL ladder position in brackets)

1. Melbourne Storm. (4th) Holding. A little clunky early until about the 50min mark when they came into their own and the weight of possession proved too much for a brave Roosters who again had to deal with some injuries. Still look really good and are still the team to beat.

2. Sydney Roosters. (5th) Holding.Not really a game worthy of a Grand Final preview but it’s still early days. Roosters are beginning to struggle with player losses and their ability to cover for what’s missing is starting to become a bit strained. The annual Anzac day clash against an in form Dragons next week may show how resilient they are but we will have to wait and see.

3. Penrith Panthers. (1st) Holding. Found a way to win on the back of a great 2nd half by Cleary in a game where stats were mostly even. It was glaringly obvious they had not had to travel in well over 18 months and for this reason they need to finish first because if they end up playing the Storm in Melbourne in a semi, they won’t be there for the big dance. Both wingers had an ordinary night with their hands.

4. South Sydney Rabbitohs. (2nd) Holding. Really off their game early but sealed it late with a very controversial golden point try. So much for downward pressure these days. Muffed more than a few opportunities to ice the game after a great comeback which is very unlike them.

5. Parramatta Eels. (3rd) Holding. A very patient and professional performance, and they reaped the rewards at the end. Excised any demons lingering after last week and now appear to be back on track. Well done to the loyal supporters who made the long trek south.

6. St.George Illawarra Dragons. (6th) Holding. Too many missed tackles and struggled to keep a rampaging opposition from making metres. A good start to the season was critical and while they’ve done that, this would be a game they expected to win. A depleted Roosters next in the traditional ANZAC day match, which will be a truer indication of where they are at, however the better team won today.

7. New Zealand Warriors. (8th) Up 3 spots. RTS had a blinder in his 100th for the Warriors and, along with Nikorima, kept the Dragons guessing all day. Their forwards were relentless and kept punching holes in the advantage line all day. A ridiculous team to try and tip given their 3 wins have been all against teams probably expected to make the 8, while their 2 of their 3 losses have been against sides who won’t.

8. Cronulla Sharks. (11th) Down 1 spot. Nearly got the win in a game where both sides were desperate. Unfortunately pipped at the post to cap off a tumultuous week and are now seriously starting to lose touch with the leaders. Will continue their slide down my ladder until they can put a top 8 side to bed and play for 80min.

9. Gold Coast Titans. (7th) Down 1 spot. Didn’t really play that badly, just blown off the park in the first half. Fifita given no room to run and their errors really started to build towards the end of the game. Challenging the Warriors as the biggest nightmare to tip. Need to find some consistency if they are seriously going to challenge around the back end of the season.

10. Newcastle Knights. (10th) Up 1 spot. A huge 80min effort from Frizell and a couple of individual pieces of brilliance from Ponga were the difference against a desperate Sharks. This much needed win keeps them in touch with the 8, although not necessarily my 8.

11. Canberra Raiders. (9th) Down 2 spots. Not good enough. Conceded 30 points for the second week running. I’m prepared to say not only can’t win the premiership they just about can’t make the 8 unless something dramatic happens because from what I’ve seen, they’ve been ordinary all season.

12. Wests Tigers. (14th) Holding. What a difference a week makes. So unlucky not to win and put their supporters through a real rollercoaster ride. As long as their heads don’t go down they’ll be better for the experience.

13. Brisbane Broncos. (14th) Up 1 spot. An outstanding performance really considering most experts had them on the wrong end of a cricket score. Perhaps they’ve now set a blueprint on how to beat the Panthers by maybe taking a leaf out of the Dragons playbook. Have every right to be proud of their effort in a so far dismal season.

14. Manly Sea Eagles. (12th) Up 1 spot. Absolutely scintillating with Tommy Turbo running rampant in the first half, along with a near perfect completion rate. Once they got a roll on they simply looked unstoppable. Went on with it in the 2nd half and really valued their line to keep their first clean sheet in 7 years.

15. North Qld Cowboys. (13th) Down 2 spots. An ordinary win against an ordinary team. Did what was required. Can’t rate anybody properly who plays the Dogs. Tougher gig next week.

16. Canterbury Bulldogs. (16th) Holding and only a miracle will see them off bottom spot. Ordinary. Playing with 12 didn’t seem to help their cause either although their best attack came when a man down. Should give the Sharks a much needed win next week.

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NRL Ladder predictions: Dragons continue to rise, Roosters the big movers, GF prediction still Storm/Roosters.

Stat of the week: 0 days since the Dragons finished a round in the top 4 after a 966 day drought. Mikaele Ravalawa has not dropped a ball all season.

Round 5 (NRL ladder position in brackets)

1. Melbourne Storm. (6th) Holding. First team to crack the 50 mark this season albeit against a struggling side. Perhaps once the dogs came back to 18-36 it was the spark the premiers needed, but they were always going to win. A preview of this year’s Grand Final next week perhaps when they take on the Roosters at home.

2. Sydney Roosters. (2nd) Up 3 spots. For 60 minutes it looked like their injuries were going to hurt them. However, as I said in the season preview, they always find a way to cover what is missing. They just went bang, bang, bang, bang and goodnight Cronulla. Big game next week before Anzac Day.

3. Penrith Panthers. (1st) Down 1 spot until they learn the meaning of humility. Once they stopped being show ponies and trying for the miracle every play and were prepared to work hard for it, they looked a lot better. Gifted a crucial 6-again call on the Raiders line with 15 to go that resulted in a try that sealed the game with a 14 point lead. Home ground advantage again like most of their matches against last years top 8 and an easy away game next.

4. South Sydney Rabbitohs. (3rd) Holding. A bit of a yawn fest really against a side in a world of trouble. Did what they needed to do without over-exerting themselves and managed a few field goals just to break up the boredom. Could have won by a lot more really, but they did score some great tries.

5. Parramatta Eels. (5th) Down 2 spots. The first of my top 5 to fall to a team outside my top 5. Stop Parramatta’s offloads and you will stop the Eels. Surprised they didn’t see it coming, as the Dragons knocked them over at Bankwest late last year. The opposition forwards got on top early and were relentless, while bombing the Dragons also proved ineffective. Maybe it’s the wake up call they need and they should win at least 2 of their next 3.

6. St.George Illawarra Dragons. (4th) Up 1 spot. Dragons coach must have read my spiel last week as the Eels barely got an offload away in the first 60min. Discipline, or at least the referees interpretation of it, is a bit of a concern, but that’s the “in your face” defensive style they’ve adopted and they seem to be coping. Another outstanding win. They were paying $3.50 v the Knights last week and $4 tonight so I expect the bookies will be changing their tune, along with a lot of doubters.

7. Cronulla Sharks. (9th) Down 1 spot. Had a huge chance to be the first team outside my top 5 to knock over a team inside my top 5. Looked brilliant for most of the game and then just collapsed and looked shell shocked by the end. If they put together a solid 80min performance they’ll match and even beat most teams. It just didn’t happen this match and not for the first time this season.

8. Gold Coast Titans. (7th) Up 2 spots. A really dominant performance. I’d like to see some consistency and a good performance against 1 of my top 5 before I rate them any higher. Fifita just about unstoppable.

9. Canberra Raiders. (8th) Down 1 spot. Too many mistakes blew a golden chance to match it with last year’s Grand Finalists who were really off their game early. The coach says that Penrith are simply just a better football team than them. Interesting comment given that they will need to beat them if they expect to move forward at the end of the season. Everybody has the Raiders as 1 of the “big 6” but I don’t.

10. New Zealand Warriors. (10th) Down 1 spot. Don’t deserve to in my top 10 but neither does anybody below them. Their lack of intensity early allowed Manly into a mistake riddled game. They paid very dearly for this and it’s not the first game they’ve thrown away in a season that’s yet to really get started for them. Most teams in the comp would have won this diabolical display of football.

11. Newcastle Knights. (11th) Holding (luckily). Just terrible. Blame injuries all you like but every team in the comp has to deal with adversity and who deals with it best while managing their top 30 roster will always come out on top. Ponga looked good in patches but putting the kickoff out on the full was the catalyst of things to come.

12. Wests Tigers. (13th) Holding. Just. Booed off at half time by their own home crowd on a day where they had everything to play for. Maybe in front of a packed house remembering Tommy they expected it all to just happen for them verses an opposition that has struggled to beat time this season. Not in 2021, and not in this competition. Came back in the end but the Cowboys simply played better and deserved to win.

13. North Qld Cowboys. (14th) Up 2 spots. Scored some brilliant individual 1st half tries and just grew in confidence as the game wore on. Wests came back towards the end but a 22 point lead always seemed enough, despite a 3 try burst in 10min during the 2nd half. Holmes at home at fullback and JT still to return.

14. Brisbane Broncos. (12th) Down 1 spot. Standard 2021 performance against another heavyweight. Looked OK for 15-20 minutes but were never going to match it for 80min. Another disastrous week looms for them with Penrith next up at Suncorp.

15. Manly Sea Eagles. (15th) Down 1 spot despite the win. Got the job done at the death against a side who were equally as bad as they were. Despite the errors it was a more enjoyable match to watch than a 48-0 flogging we’ve seen a few times so far. They are a long long way off being a top 12 team at this stage.

16. Canterbury Bulldogs. (16th) Holding. Well done to them for putting on 18 points against the premiers. Unfortunately, this sprung the opposition into action and destroyed the Dogs late inflicting another flogging. Firming as spoon favourites given the other winless sides snagged victories and 2022 can’t come quick enough, which shows where they are as we’re only 5 games into 2021.

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