The cream has started to rise to the top in the NRL after Easter weekend's round seven.

Defending premiers Cronulla, and early-season favourites the Broncos, Storm and Raiders really began to flex their muscles, while the Dragons continue to look every bit the competition heavyweights, despite lowly pre-season expectations.

The Cowboys continue to fall, as their injury toll mounts, while the Warriors couldn't stay with the Raiders in Canberra.

Kiwi Watch

Advertisement

Kiwi forwards Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Sio Siua Takeiaho were strong for the Roosters, as they powered to a comfortable win over the Newcastle Knights. Knights hooker Danny Levi was tidy again in a losing cause and coach Nathan Brown commented that Levi wouldn't look out of place in the Kiwi side for the upcoming test match.

Winger Shaun Kenny-Dowall was heavily involved out of acting half for the Roosters.

Adam Blair was strong again for the Broncos against the Titans, while Kodi Nikorima impressed in his 2017 debut, filling in for the injured Ben Hunt at halfback.

Jesse Bromwich was a late inclusion in the Storm's win over the Sea Eagles and the incumbent Kiwi test skipper delivered a typically powerful performance.

Jordan Rapana was good again for the Raiders, even if he was out-shadowed by his close mate BJ Leilua. Joseph Tapine was solid after being promoted to start for the Raiders against the Warriors, while Iosia Soliola was impressive off the bench.

Kieran Foran and Issac Luke had quiet games for the Warriors, but Shaun Johnson looked dangerous with some running ball. Skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck had a huge first half, but was kept quiet in the second spell, as the Raiders took control.

Lock Jason Taumalolo was quiet by his standards for the Cowboys against the Dragons - if running for over 150m can be deemed quiet. Fullback Kalyn Ponga looked sharp in notching over 200m in a losing cause.

The Kiwi contingent at the Panthers were kept fairly quiet by the Sharks and second rower James Fisher Harris injured his shoulder in the loss.

Best Performance

The Cronulla Sharks somehow went into their Easter Sunday clash with the Penrith Panthers as underdogs. I doubt that will happen again in a hurry.

The Sharks were superb, shutting down the high-octane Panthers attack, while constructing some nice tries themselves. The quality of the Sharks play has fluctuated a bit this season, but they have saved their best for the biggest games against the stronger opponents.

Unless injuries strike, it looks like the Sharks will be a serious chance of repeating their 2016 break-through premiership.

Standout Player
James Roberts proved the difference on Good Friday, as he bagged a hat-trick of tries against his old side, the Gold Coast Titans. The Broncos centre used his scintillating speed to great effect, as he tormented his former teammates.

To rub salt into their wounds, Roberts' pace saw him get to Kane Elgey's charged down kick a minute from fulltime and run untouched to score the match-winner.

Key Moment

Warriors skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck looked certain to score a vital try just before halftime in their clash with the Raiders in Canberra. Just as he got to the line, Raiders captain Jarrod Croker pulled off the tackle of the season to prevent Tuivasa-Sheck from getting the ball to the ground and ensure the home side remained with touching distance.

After the break, the Raiders clicked into gear and powered away to victory.

Controversy
The refereeing in the Raiders v Warriors game was very poor. Warriors fans will feel robbed, after a couple of dubious second-half decisions, but they ought to look closely at the first-half refereeing as well, which clearly favoured the visitors.

Ken Maumalo was ruled to have knocked the ball on, which ruled out a Solomone Kata try, while Josh Hodgson got away with a clear strip moments before the Raiders hooker scored an important try.

What some Warriors fans don't seem to acknowledge is that the Warriors' opening try was extremely dubious, with Ryan Hoffman appearing to bobble the ball into Jack Wighton. The Warriors were constantly offside in the first half and got away with murder whenever the Raiders bent the line.

In the end, the poor officiating evened itself out and the better side won the game.

Joseph Leilua crashes over to score against the Warriors. Photo / Getty Images
Joseph Leilua crashes over to score against the Warriors. Photo / Getty Images

Team of the Week

1. Billy Slater (Storm)

2. Nick Cotric (Raiders)

3. James Roberts (Broncos)

4. Joseph Leilua (Raiders)

5. Anthony Don (Titans)

6. Josh Reynolds (Bulldogs)

7. Chad Townsend (Sharks)

8. Jarrod Wallace (Titans)

9. Cameron Smith (Storm)

10. Junior Paulo (Raiders)

11. Wade Graham (Sharks)

12. Matt Gillett (Broncos)

13. Jake Trbojevic (Sea Eagles)

14. James Graham (Bulldogs)

15. Boyd Cordner (Roosters)

16. Tim Lafai (Dragons)

17. Gareth Widdop (Dragons)

Power Rankings

1.Storm (0)

2.Sharks (+2)

3.Dragons (-1)

4.Raiders (+2)

5.Roosters (0)

6.Broncos (+1)

7.Cowboys (-4)

8.Sea Eagles (0)

9.Bulldogs (+1)

10.Rabbitohs (-1)

11.Warriors (0)

12.Eels (+1)

13.Panthers (-1)

14.Tigers (0)

15.Titans (0)

16.Knights (0)