The Cronulla Sharks have put in a strong performance to outclass a frustrated Panthers outfit in front of over 13,000 people at Pepper Stadium in Sydney west. The Sharks lead 8 – 6 at halftime and put an exciting and ruthless 2nd half performance together to run out 26 – 12 winners.
BARBA IS BACK
Sunday afternoon at Pepper Stadium was a throwback to the 2012 season where Ben Barba swept all before him away with a range of electric speed and breathtaking power. Barba’s two individual try’s in the first half were against the run of play and helped the Sharks gain the ascendency in a match in which they had been camped inside their own 20 metre zone repelling a wave of Panthers attacking raids. In 2012 Barba helped lead the Bulldogs to a Grand Final, will history repeat itself in 2016.
Matt Moylan has quickly become the touch of class that the Panthers rely on to take them from a competitive NRL squad to a contender. His absence on Sunday afternoon was noticeable as the Panthers lacked the finishing touch on attack and found themselves lost and panicked at various stages throughout the match. The potential for this team to challenge for a premiership in the years to come is very good. The young, raw talent in this team does rely heavily on their talented fullback to complete in 2016.
The Sharks second half performance was that of a elite NRL contender. Down on troops through Origin, and having to repel a Panthers side that finished the first half with all the momentum, the Sharks put together a disciplined and methodical half of football to leave the men from the base of the mountains in their wake.
BREAKING THE MOULD
The Sharks seem to have found the perfect balance of flair, discipline and structure that all premiership winners posses. In a league that is too often dominated by boring, predictable game plans the team from the Shire have found a structure and mentality that allows them to complete (and win) week after week regardless of the 17 players taking the field. In a week were multiple absences of key star players was supposed to slow the Sharks record winning streak, they put in a dominate and methodical performance that will leave many teams scratching their heads in finding a obvious weakness to exposed come finals time.
Cronulla Sharks 26
Tries: B. Barba (23, 33), M. Brown (51), J Paulo (54), L. Lewis (69)
Goals: C. Townsend (55, 60, 71)
Penrith Panthers 10
Tries: L. Latu (37), I. Yeo (72)
Goals: N. Cleary (39)