Panthers do it tough to overcome Sharks and go ten points clear



Penrith have survived an early scare against the Cronulla Sharks to record a tight 20-10 win at BlueBet Stadium,moving ten points clear at the top of the NRL ladder.

It brings them into sight of the record in the NRL era, set by the 2006 Melbourne Storm, of an eight point winning margin in the Minor Premiership race.

They did it the hard way. The Sharks raced into a ten point lead in the early stages and put the Panthers off their game in a way that few have managed, but were gradually pegged back and overhauled by this relentless Penrith team.

It was hardly champagne football: as the rain fell at the foot of the mountains, two of the NRL’s best managed to produce an errorathon, with close to 30 between them. Neither could accumulate much pressure.

With signs clear early on that this would be a low-scoring affair, Cronulla will likely be annoyed that they didn’t get enough on the board when they were hot.

Ten points was never likely to be enough and from the moment they scored their second try onwards, the Sharks managed just six tackles in the Panthers’ 20m zone.

Cronulla flew out of the blocks. They might have crossed before they did, but it was worth the wait: Jesse Ramien caught a kick, offloaded to Connor Tracey and he beat five Panthers to score.

The pressure continued and Penrith had no answer. Nicho Hynes’s kick was too good for Dylan Edwards, with Royce Hunt on hand to pick up the pieces, and as the Panthers overcompensated on their sliding defence, Matt Moylan darted for the line.

The replays suggested that he was short as Isaah Yeo came across to make the tackle and hold him up, but the bunker let it slide.

Penrith begun to slowly wrest some of the control back, but were clearly rattled. Their usual patience in possession was missing as they forced offloads and found errors.

It took until the 35th minute for the line to be breached: Api Koroisau delaying the pass to Jerome Luai, who slipped Izack Tago into the hole.

With seconds remaining in the half, Nathan Cleary added a penalty and the score stood at 10-8, a poor return for the performance that the Sharks had turned in.

If you give Penrith an inch, they’ll take a mile. Just 45 seconds into the second half, they busted the right edge of the Sharks defence and found Taylan May in space, with Dylan Edwards running support on the inside to score.

Though Penrith had taken the lead, they were far from secure. Both sides had struggled with errors in the first half, combining for 12 between them, but they surpassed that mark within 25 minutes of the second.

That both sides failed to complete was helping the Panthers. Cronulla couldn’t generate any field position and, as the conditions deteriorated, it looked increasingly like a four point lead might be enough.

There was time yet for a little controversy. Dale Finucane shot the line and collided head on head with Stephen Crichton, which was deemed not to be a penalty despite an arguably reckless manner in which he approached the tackle.

Late on, Luai added some gloss to the scoreline, and dashed any hopes of a comeback. In truth, even with the gap at four, it had never looked likely.


Mike Meehall Wood

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