Blood in the water only made this pack hungrier for finals progression and ended the Mountain Men’s momentum….
Cronulla Sharks have survived a comeback from the Penrith Panthers to advance to within one game of the NRL grand final with a heart-stopping 21-20 victory.
Down 18-6 after 48 minutes, the Panthers fell short in front of 19,211 at the Sydney Football Stadium.
A 72nd minute field goal to Sharks half-back Chad Townsend proved the difference while outperforming Nathan Cleary with the boot.
After the Sharks led 18-2 at half-time, the Panthers looked dead and buried against one of the best defensive sides in the competition.
However, the Panthers mounted a comeback after full-back Valentine Holmes committed a massive blunder when he allowed the ball to bounce in-goal and Cleary pounced to narrow the margin to 18-8.
MOYLAN V MALONEY
James Maloney was hailed as the form player of the competition early in the year, did enough to be the NSW five-eighth, and has been the key to their past two wins. Matt Moylan started slowly in his new digs but has found his feet at the business end, and carved up his former club in his return to Penrith in round 18. But a preliminary final would be the difference everyone remembers.
THE COMEBACK OR CARDIAC KIDS
With a pack that was capable to be able to pull this from the fire the Panthers have been shown all year they can bring it back from a deficit but the task this week was too much for them and they crumbled under pressure. To take it to the next step they need to fix this!
INJURIES AT WORST TIME FOR FLANNO’S MEN
Cronulla now may have to take on the Storm this week without skipper Paul Gallen, Josh Dugan (shoulder) and Wade Graham (knee). If this is the case I would be riding off this squad unfortunately. Bellamy’s men are the benchmark and have been for the past decade and then some and would be too much of a task for an undermanned Sharks side.
Wade Graham is a huge part of what the Sharks do especially down their left edge, and his left-foot kicking game has proven valuable. He’s come up with 21 offloads to go with his 11 line break assists, but is averaging only 76 metres a game.
BATTLE OF THE FORWARDS
Two of the best forward packs in the league! Penrith boast some representative power in former NSW stars Trent Merrin, Reagan Campbell-Gillard and James Tamou. But Cronulla see that triple, and have raised them with Andrew Fifita, Matt Prior, Luke Lewis, Paul Gallen and Aaron Woods. The loss of Graham and Gallen did take away a little punch but still was a great contest up front.