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Roosters, Rabbits continue rise, Knights actually win a game of rugby league football

Ha, ha, ha – whatcha laughing at? Yes, let me in the studio because we’ve got 21 rounds to talk about.

The Sydney Roosters were the So Solid Crew of Round 21 of the NRL, and not because their leader is liable to end up in prison: their defence was excellent and battered Brisbane into submission on Thursday night.

I guess that makes Parramatta Sweet Like Chocolate after their win over Manly, Souths Movin’ Too Fast for the Warriors and the Raiders needing A Little Bit of Luck to make the finals after losing to the Panthers. Actually, a Sweet Like Chocolate gag would have worked a lot better if they were still wearing that brown kit, right?

After my mid-2000s UK music references of a few weeks ago went down so well in the comments section, I thought we’d roll some even-earlier, even more niche content. Do you really like it? Is it is it wicked?

I promise I’ll stop soon, and not just because I can’t think of a Round 22 track. Leave me one below.

1 – Penrith Panthers (-)

It doesn’t really matter who you take out of this Panthers team because they’re really good. They’ve been 1 from the first week of the season and will be until Grand Final day, at least.

(Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

2 – North Queensland Cowboys (-)

The Cowboys are making a happy knack of finishing strong, having blown out the Dragons in the second half last week and then doing the same to the Bulldogs this weekend.

All the evidence says that they will be the non-Panthers team to beat in the finals, and I would love to see them get some home finals in front of a packed stadium in Townsville.

The worry for Todd Payten would be that the visitors on such an occasion might well be a rising Roosters or Rabbitohs. It’d be great telly whatever happens.

3 – Cronulla Sharks (-)

The Sharks disposed of the dreadful Dragons eventually. If we have our ‘good defeat’ points, they get the ‘crap win’ nomination this week, because being kept within a converted try of a side that poor is somewhat concerning.

That said: had the ref shown any gumption – you bottleless get, Klein – then they’d have been playing against 12 for an hour and would likely have run up a cricket score.

Craig Fitzgibbon’s men run into four bottom eight teams in a row now, and, unless Manly put 50 on the Titans this weekend, probably four teams that can’t make the eight. Expect to see more Kade Dykes action.

4 – South Sydney Rabbitohs (+2)

Watching Souths play the Warriors on Saturday lunchtime was like watching Homer win the design-your-own nuclear power plant competition in The Simpsons against a bunch of children. Men against highly disinterested boys, you might say, and Souths beat their brains out.

They’ll get tougher tests, for sure, but this Bunnies team are going places. If only there was a smug Pommy journo out there who told you it would happen.

Souths are likely going to have to win four games straight to win the comp, which will probably be too much in the end, but given that they go Eels, Panthers, Cowboys, Roosters – all in Sydney – to end the year, they’ll have plenty of practice. Did someone say peaking at the right time?

5 – Sydney Roosters (+3)

Speaking of peaking, how bout dem Chooks? The Roosters turned in one of their best showings of the season, and one of the best opening 20 minutes that anyone has put in, to blow Brisbane out the water on Thursday night at the SCG.

For all the talk that their run-in is a nightmare, that was predicated on this being a bad Roosters team. On current form, they will fancy themselves against anyone, home and away, and are now officially lurking in the lower reaches of the finals for anyone who drops out of the top four.

Certainly, Brisbane will not relish finishing anywhere they might run them into Robbo’s Roosters, and I’d say the same goes for the Storm.

The top four is probably beyond them, as they would have to win 4 from 4 from here, but still: I reckon they’ll start favourites from here to the finals, including away in Melbourne.

(Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

6 – Melbourne Storm (-1)

I’m not going to go as far as ‘laboured’ to describe the Storm’s win over the Titans on Friday night, but they did make hard work of it.

Cameron Munster’s return to fullback looked good, but then it was the Titans: even Cooper Johns looked good against the NRL’s premier non-tacklers. That experiment might end earlier than expected if a) Jahrome Hughes is out and b) Nick Meaney comes back.

It’s not like they don’t need the bodies: Melbourne get Penrith and Brisbane away, then Roosters at home, then Parra away with a potential top four spot on the line. By that point, they might be happy to be in the finals at all.

7 – Parramatta Eels (-)

Another week, another spotty Parramatta performance. As mentioned at great length in my column last week, the Eels are woefully inconsistent within games, because they cede intensity as soon as they make any subs.

That sawthe scoreline go from 8-0 in their favour to 8-14 against, before they rallied to win well in the end. So if winning better than performance? At this stage, probably, but it’s something that Brad Arthur needs to have the long hard think about.

Lose to Souths this weekend – and every Eels fan will tell you that they always do – and there’s suddenly a lot of teams on 28 points and only one top four berth up for grabs. Win, however, and it might well be Parra’s place to lose.

8 – Brisbane Broncos (-4)

Brisbane drop all the way down to 8th this week, because while they are all but secure to reach the finals, it could well be difficult for them to advance any further.

They will likely get a home game, and they’ll need it: they are prime candidates to be bundled out in the first week by either of the two teams on the charge, or by a wounded Storm side that gets knocked from the top four.

As long as Tesi Niu continually is asked to defend at 1, I’m going to find it hard to see a world where they don’t concede too many points to win a post-season game. Te Maire Martin can’t get back to top grade fast enough.

9 – Canberra Raiders (-)

When you’ve been in the game for as long as Ricky Stuart has, you know one or two things about post-match press conferences. One of them might well be the ability to use them to distract from how rubbish your team were.

Penrith were primed for the ambush, and the Raiders were nowhere near the level that they needed to be.

Granted, a game against the Panthers is unlikely to be essential to Canberra’s chances of making the finals, but had they won, they’d be looking very pretty now. As it stands, they’re outsiders at best.

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

10 – Manly Sea Eagles (-)

Stick a fork in those Sea Eagles, they’re done. The work was probably accomplished a week early when half their team decided not to play, but it was all but confirmed on Friday evening. They need to go 4-0 to end the year and hope for a lot of other results to go their way.

Des Hasler doesn’t have an ounce of quit in him, neither does Daly Cherry-Evans and they will likely keep the fight going one more week as they play the Titans on Sunday. Then it’s Cronulla, who might rest players, then it’s a 9 v 10 with the Raiders, then the Bulldogs who will be turning up with lilos and towels. So you’re saying there’s a chance…

11 – Canterbury Bulldogs (+1)

The Entertainers! It’s so much fun watching this team at the moment that it doesn’t bother me at all that they don’t win. Here, Doggies fans: you’re above the Dragons now.

Sure, it probably comes across like a gentle pat on the head from me, but hey – my dog loves gentle pats on the head so I presume Canterbury Bulldogs do too.

12 – St George Illawarra Dragons (-1)

I wrote a red pen/Red V article about three weeks ago, but it took until Saturday night for Anthony Griffin to accept the inevitable.

I hope they use the time that they have at the end of the year to avoid themselves. And I don’t mean Mad Monday at Steelers Leagues/wherever you go to drink in Wollongong. I mean on the field.

Connor Tracey is hit high in a tackle by Tariq Sims. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

13 – Newcastle Knights (+2)

Newcastle got the win over the Tigers in a game that was surprisingly entertaining despite both teams trying their best to lose it.

I’ll move them above the Tigers because they’ve beaten them twice this year. Oh, and because I’m a Hull FC fan and they have inexplicably released Tex Hoy to join us in the Super League next year. He’s one of the few good players they have, so thanks, Knights.

14 – New Zealand Warriors (-1)

Look, I’m a completist so I have to write about teams 12-16, but let it be known that they’re all rubbish. The Warriors, chief among them, because they didn’t even try on Saturday.

15 – Wests Tigers (-1)

We’ve had the non-triers, so let’s move onto the incompetents. The Wests Tigers seem to score by accident when they manage it at all. They’re a bad football side.

16 – Gold Coast Titans (-)

The Titans are useless, though they looked less useless against Melbourne than many expected. Good for them. They have Manly and Newcastle at home, plus trips to the Dragons and Warriors. My bold prediction is that they will win at least one of those games to move a solitary win ahead of the 2021 Bulldogs.

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