ROUND 8 v Cronulla Sharks @ Remondis Stadium, Saturday 26th April
The Cronulla Sharks stormed home during the latter stages of the second half to finish up winning their third game in a row defeating the Penrith Panthers 26-20 at Remondis Stadium & in the process put an end to the Panthers 4 game unbeaten streak.
Penrith were as per programme with the exception of Isaah Yeo who was replaced by Daniel Foster with Will Smith moving into the centres while the Cronulla Sharks were hampered by the withdrawal of Michael Lichaa & Ben Hampton to the NRL for Cronulla / Melbourne respectively.
It was Penrith who drew first blood when a pinpoint Isaac John cross field bomb was brilliantly regathered by that man Eto Nabuli, to score in the corner & give the Panthers a 4-0 lead after 11 minutes of play. Despite Penrith’s dominance in possession & territory during the first 20 minutes, they weren’t able to extend their lead.
The Sharks made Penrith pay for that inability to convert pressure into points after Sharks prop Matt Prior put Tim Robinson over from close range for the latter to give them a 6-4 lead with 15 minutes remaining in the 1st half. That lead was extended further minutes later when replacement five-eighth Penu Manumaleallii kicked ahead towards the Penrith in-goal & was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time when the ball took a fortuitous deflection off a couple of Panther players to pounce on the loose ball to score. Stapleton’s conversion gave the Sharks a handy 12-4 which they took with them to the sheds at halftime.
The Panthers first half completion rate was poor compared to their opponents but two tries in the opening ten minutes appeared to have turned things around for Penrith. The 1st of those tries scored by hooker Kierran Moseley was a show & go from dummy half that fooled David Fifita before diving over to score. Minutes later a Daniel Foster line break from 40 metres out was finished off by debutant centre Waqa Blake & with both tries converted by Will Smith, Penrith lead once more 16-12.
The next 20 minutes however was dominated by the Sharks as Penrith once again allowed errors to creep into their game to put themselves under relentless pressure in defence. The Sharks had a one point 5 repeat sets inside the Panthers 20m zone but to their credit the Panthers held on. Just as it appeared the Panthers weathered the Storm, an errant pass to Dallin Watene Zelezniak was pounced upon by his opposite number Nathan Stapleton who sprinted 70m to score in the left corner. Stapleton’s conversion from the sideline restored Cronulla’s lead 18-16 & was extended further to 24-16 after Manumalealii provided a brilliant overhead lob to Sione Masima to score from close range, before a late penalty conversion from Nathan Stapleton gave the Sharks breathing space at 26-16 with only minutes remaining. Penrith to their credit played out the 80 minutes & were rewarded with a try to Kevin Naiqama in the last play of the game after a quick spread right put the Fijian winger into space down the right touchline & score in the right corner, leaving the score 26-20 at full time.
That loss takes Penrith back to 7th position while Cronulla are 8th but have a bye in hand on Penrith. Next week, the rep round sees Penrith return to SportingBet Stadium to take on the 4th placed NZ Warriors who are going for a season best 5 game winning streak while Cronulla have the bye.
Final Score: Penrith 20 (Tries: Nabuli, Moseley, Blake, Naiqama Goals: W Smith 2/4) def. by Cronulla 26 (Tries: T Robinson, Manumalealii, Stapleton, Masima Goals: Stapleton 5/5)