NRL Ladder predictions after round 14: Dragons crash and burn again. Cronulla’s remarkable rise.

(NRL ladder position in brackets)

1. Melbourne Storm. (1st) Holding. Just keep rolling on and my decision to keep them in front of Penrith on this ladder predictor has been justified as they now sit number 1 on the NRL ladder. I honestly just can’t see them getting beat, no matter who takes their spot in the starting side. Tigers are in real trouble against them next week, before my predicted Grand Final preview against the Roosters.

2. Penrith Panthers. (2nd) Holding. Back to back losses. Has the bubble burst? Time will tell. Outplayed in every department in the first half before a comeback, proving that the young blokes can match it with seasoned NRL players, but it proved too late. Roosters and Parra next will sort out their Origin issues and we’ll have to see how they come out of it.

3. Parramatta Eels. (3rd) Holding. Finished up with a great completion rate after some early dropped ball by their forwards. Opposition errors outweighed theirs and Parra were able to get on a great roll, scoring some classy tries. Back on track.

4. Sydney Roosters. (5th) Holding. Nearly blew a 26 point lead with 24 min to go. Well they did blow the lead but were classy enough to score the final try and nail the match winning field goal. A game that had everything and they keep finding a way to win, and I think that will continue into the semis.

5. South Sydney Rabbitohs. (4th) Holding. Always had Newcastle’s mettle and I thought Mitchell had an outstanding 80 mins backing up from a great performance in Origin. As I said pre-season, their campaign hinges on him staying fit and out of trouble. Reynolds continues to perform and nail sideline goals for fun.

6. Manly Sea Eagles. (6th) Holding. After conceding a 12 point lead I thought “Here we go, no Turbo no win”. From that point on they were pretty destructive, and the Cowboys had no answers. Turbo’s return back in round 5 has sparked this team into a genuine semi-final contender and have now learnt how to play without him. Very impressive.

7. Nobody. (new entry). Nobody deserves to be playing finals footy except for the top 6 right now.

8. Nobody. Ditto the above.

=9. Cronulla Sharks. (9th) Up 3 spots. 3 on the bang now plus a bye has them in touching distance of the 8. Wouldn’t have picked that a month ago but huge kudos to them for turning it all around and knocking off the Premiership favourites (!) after a horror 7 straight losses. A great game of footy to watch.

=9. Gold Coast Titans. (12th) Down 1 spot. Continue to concede massive numbers in defence. True, it was a great comeback, (thanks to a rare sin-bin), but I’ve lost count of the number of times they’ve let in 30 points or more. Even if they do make the semis they won’t go anywhere unless they can shore up this massive problem.

=10. North Qld Cowboys. (7th) Down 1 spot. Blew a 12 point lead and ended up conceding 50. Ordinary completion rate and allowed 52 tackle breaks coupled with 13 errors. Next 2 games are winnable before facing Rabbits and Roosters. Their points differential is diabolical given they are currently inside the top 8.

=10. New Zealand Warriors. (11th) Holding. A farewell Maumalo hat-trick in the last 20 min was the only joy for the Warriors who led 2-0 after 22 min before the Storm just went bang, bang, bang. For and against will be critical for teams finishing around the bottom of the 8 and theirs isn’t crash hot at this stage. Really need to beat the Knights away next week before they face another side vying for position, the Dragons.

11. St.George Illawarra Dragons. (8th) Down 4 spots. Diabolical. Have now lost 7 from past 9, have a shocking run home and obviously have short memories. It’s a complete farce that they remain in the 8 on the NRL ladder.

12. Wests Tigers. (13th) Down 1 spot. Failed in the first test of a run against 3 of the top 5 after a great recent vein of form. Just never in it after Parra led 14-0 early. Even 2 opposition blokes in the bin didn’t assist their cause and I think they showed their true colours today. Which is a bottom 6 team.

13. Canberra Raiders. (10th) Up 1 spot. 12 point half time lead against a Broncos team that are more than struggling. Decent possession and completion rate was all they needed to do against that mob. A much needed win on the back of the bye though.

14. Newcastle Knights. (14th) Down 1 spot. Dropped a bomb first touch and never recovered after Souths scored straight away. Their slide to the depths of oblivion continues. Need to rediscover that form in the Manly game.

15. Canterbury Bulldogs. (16th) Up 1 spot. Makes you wonder why they don’t play like that every week. Great completions, excellent defence and good enough acting to fool the bunker and referees. Looking way better than the Broncos at this stage. Won’t win for a least another 4 games though.

16. Brisbane Broncos. (15th) Down 1 spot. The only realistic goal for them is to stay clear of the Bulldogs. How many halves combinations have they tried so far? Normally their best forward, Matt Lodge had a shocking first half. That was not a send off though, they are kidding. Certainly didn’t help their cause although they didn’t play too badly when down to 12.

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NRL Ladder predictions after round 13: Knights on the slide, Dragons and Tigers up a spot.

Stat of the week: Matt Dufty pulled off a perfect 10 in the old Rugby League Week ratings with 2 tries and 5 try assists in arguably his best performance in a Dragons jersey. He’s off contract and unwanted. Whose going to sign him?

(NRL ladder position in brackets)

1. Melbourne Storm. (2nd) Holding. Nearly lost top spot on my ladder but got the job done eventually with desperate defence against a Titans side who just couldn’t finish. Now within a game of Penrith in the fight for the minor premiership. I am stunned that Sportsbet have paid out Penrith as Minor premiers and Premiers already. Ridiculous when you have a very strong Melbourne Storm side winning 10 on the trot.

2. Penrith Panthers. (1st) Holding. I guess “great depth” only goes so deep. Burned by the Origin bug and hardly the first team in history to suffer from this. Their charge to the finals now hinges on how busted their top players are after the origin period.

3. Parramatta Eels. (3rd) Holding. Finished up with a great completion rate after some early dropped ball by their forwards. Opposition errors outweighed theirs and Parra were able to get on a great roll, scoring some classy tries. Back on track.

4. Sydney Roosters. (5th) Holding. Had the bye. Next 3 Titans, Panthers, Storm.

5. South Sydney Rabbitohs. (4th) Holding. Had the bye. Next 3 Knights, Broncos, Tigers.

6. Manly Sea Eagles. (6th) Holding. Had the bye. Next 3 Cowboys, Titans, Bulldogs.

7. St.George Illawarra Dragons. (8th) Up 1 spot. A completely different team with returning players, notably Ravalawa who is unstoppable near the line, de Belin who gave an extra dimension to attack and, in particular, Dufty who had an absolute blinder. Conceding 24 points may be a worry, but it doesn’t matter when you score more than 50.

8. Gold Coast Titans. (12th) Down 1 spot. Started both halves really well and had every opportunity, particularly in the 2nd half, to at least take this game to golden point. Forced numerous line dropouts but couldn’t get it done, the worst example when Kelly had his winger unmarked but chose to take the advantage and came up with an error instead of a potential match levelling try.

9. North Qld Cowboys. (7th) Had the bye. Next 3 Manly, Sharks, Knights.

10. New Zealand Warriors. (9th) Had the bye. Next 3 Storm, Knights, Dragons.

11. Wests Tigers. (11th) Up 1 spot. Good enough to take advantage of the Origin-less competition leaders and have now gone back to back for the first time this season. Unfortunately for them they have Parra, Storm and Souths coming up before the bye so I expect them to slide backwards again.

12. Cronulla Sharks. (10th) Up 1 spot. Had the bye. Next 3 Panthers, Cowboys, Broncos.

13. Newcastle Knights. (14th) Down 2 spots. Crashing back to earth and ended up copping a thrashing on Old Boys Day. Too much dropped ball and that premiership 20 years ago is really a fading memory. They’ve got nothing without Pearce and Ponga.

14. Canberra Raiders. (13th) Holding. Had the bye. Next 3 Broncos, Dragons, Titans.

15. Brisbane Broncos. (15th) Holding. Albert Kelly looks really dangerous in attack but once they let Dufty score under their noses on the stroke of half time and copped a sin-binning they really lost their way and just got flogged. Again.

16. Canterbury Bulldogs. (16th) Holding. Had the bye. Next 3 Dragons, Eels, Manly.

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