ROUND 8 v Cronulla Sharks @ Remondis Stadium, Saturday 26th April
The Panthers inconsistent win / loss record in season 2014 continued when they let slip their grip on the game, allowing the Sharks to come home the stronger in the second half to win just their second game of the season, 24-20 before a crowd of over 13,000 at Remondis Stadium.
The game was marred by several contentious referring decisions but even still as coach Ivan Cleary mentioned after the game, “it was a game we still didn’t deserve to win”. The Panthers as has been the case thus far in 2014, once again failed to convert first half territory & possession into a sizeable given the Sharks were barely in the game for the first 30 minutes.
A line break made by Peter Wallace assisted by Dave Simmons was the catalyst for Penrith scoring a few plays later in the 9th minute thru Josh Mansour, after a Wallace cross field kick found Beau Ryan wanting in his first game of the season & the Panthers winger was on hand to score his 5th try of the season in the left corner. Jamie Soward nailed the conversion from the sideline to give Penrith the early ascendancy at 6-0.
Cronulla hit back minutes later through five-eighth Todd Carney who took on the Panthers line in a determined run & crashed over to score from close range but was forced from the field with a hamstring injury. Michael Gordon’s conversion hit the post to trail 6-4. Penrith suffered a similar setback minutes later with workaholic back rower Elijah Taylor also forced out of the game with a knee injury.
Despite the setback, Penrith continued to play positive football & extended their lead to 12-4 after 22 minutes when quick hands from Jamal Idris, Matt Moylan & Dean Whare combined to put Simmons over for a spectacularly acrobatic try in the right corner, again converted by Soward from the touchline.
The Panthers continued to enjoy sizeable possession & territory but failed to put the Sharks to the sword. Cronulla were rewarded for their ability to hang in there when a Jeff Robson grubber close to the line was fielded by James Segeyaro who was legally stripped of the ball by Michael Gordon & the ball went left from Cronulla before centre Ricky Leutele plunged over from close range. Gordon’s conversion was successful putting the Sharks right back in the game with all the momentum despite trailing 12-10 at the main break.
The second half developed into a real arm wrestle as neither side yielded in defence, thou Penrith had the best chance to extend their lead when a shift out right had the Sharks at sixers & sevens but Whare’s intended pass to an unmarked Simmons sailed wide into touch 15m out from the Sharks try line & the opportunity was lost. A penalty converted by Gordon in the 55th minute allowed the Sharks to level the scores 12-12. The Panthers responded with some repeat sets of their own on the Cronulla line before another Wallace cross field kick again found out Beau Ryan as Mansour regathered to reach out & score only for the video referee to deny the try thanks to a knock-on at dummy half by Dean Whare in the lead-up to the try.
Penrith regained the lead once more 14-12 after 65 minutes when Andrew Fifita was penalised & Jamie Soward successfully kicked the goal from outside the Sharks 30m zone. A massive call went against the Panthers in the 67th minute when a cross field kick was batted back by Simmons into the waiting arms of Whare who dived over to score out wide only for the linesman & on-field referee deny the try without even referring the decision to the video referee. The decision not to go upstairs given replays suggested there was a considerable need to refer it, was crucial given it became a 12 point turnaround in the next set of six for Cronulla after a Jeff Robson bomb was plucked from mid-air by former Panther Gordon, who stormed over to score under the posts to give the Sharks the lead for the first time in the game, 18-14 with 11 minutes remaining.
The Panthers to their credit played some expansive football to regain the lead five minutes later when a shift out right allowed Whare to find some space down Cronulla’s left edge before finding Peter Wallace backing up on his inside finish off a 70m effort & put the Panthers back in front 20-18. The Panthers were made to pay for a poor last tackle kick option which allowed another former favourite son, Wade Graham to bust the Panther’s right edge before finding his halfback Robson backing up on his inside to score next to the posts & give Cronulla back the lead at 24-20.
With less than 2 minutes remaining, the Panthers having regained possession from the Sharks inside their own half thought they had won the game when a quick shift right close to the Sharks try line saw Whare plunge over out wide, only for the try to referred upstairs. Whilst Adam Docker stopped at the defensive line, which under the strict application of the rules is an obstruction, it appeared that the man who was obstructed, Graham, may have assisted with some gamesmanship of his own diving at Docker when replays suggested he wasn’t in a position to get across in time to prevent Whare from scoring & allowed the Sharks to hang on long enough to win a gritty game of football 24-20, leaving Penrith with a 4-4 win/loss record one third of the way into the season & with tough away trips to Newcastle & Canberra to come after the representative bye weekend, will need to get some wins back on the board to remain in the hunt for a finals spot.
Final Score: Penrith 20 (Tries: Mansour, Simmons, Wallace Goals: Soward 4/4) def. by Cronulla 24 (Tries: Carney, Leutele, Gordon, Robson Goals: Gordon 4/5)