The Penrith Panthers get the win at home in an all-important match against the Cronulla Sharks on Friday night.
The first points of the night came in the 9thminute, with Nathan Cleary kicking a penalty goal for his team. Not long after, the Panthers gained momentum and control over the game, with Brent Naden scoring a try. Ten minutes later, fullback Dylan Edwards scored his first of two tries for the night. Wade Graham crossed for the Sharks in the 31stminute, a try Shaun Johnson was unable to convert.
Penrith looked more put-together than the Sharks, and in the final minute of the first half, Nathan Cleary scored and converted a try for Penrith. The home side went into half time with a 16-point lead.
The final points scored by the Panthers came early in the second half, with Dylan Edwards crossing for a double. The Sharks didn’t have much time to muster a comeback, however, gave it a fair go. Jack Williams scored in the 60thminute, which was quickly followed by a try from centre Josh Morris. By this time, it was a ten-point difference, and 15 minutes left in the game.
Sosaia Feki scored the last points of the night, putting the Sharks behind by just six points in the final minutes. However, they ran out of chances to steal the win, giving the Panthers the win and a spot in the top eight.
By all accounts, it was a high energy game, with both teams putting together solid performances, without too many errors. The Panthers were dominant early on, which gave them the edge they needed to win in front of a home crowd.
No Maloney, No Worries
James Maloney was ruled out after being handed a one-match suspension for tripping an opponent in their loss to the Bulldogs. Both players in the halves – Nathan Cleary and debutant Matt Burton – rose to the occasion, taking responsibility for their team, leading them to an all-important victory.
Too Little Too Late
In the end, it looked like the Sharks were in with a chance to steal the victory from the home team. However, it was too little too late, with Cronulla clawing their way back into the game only to fall short by 6 points in the final minutes.
The Penrith Panthers had three players on debut in the Friday night clash. Matt Burton, Spencer Leniu and Stephen Crichton all played their debut game in first grade – and did so in an impressive manner. Burton played alongside Cleary in the halves, while Crichton played in the centres and Leniu played off the bench.
Top Eight Battle
The bottom half of the top eight is still wide open, with the Panthers leapfrogging the Sharks after Friday night’s victory. With just a handful of rounds left, these two sides (among others) will be looking to claim as many wins as they can to ensure their spot in the finals series for 2019.
Penrith Panthers 26
Tries: Brent Naden, Dylan Edwards 2, Nathan Cleary
Goals: Nathan Cleary 5
Cronulla Sharks 20
Tries: Wade Graham, Jack Williams, Josh Morris, Sosaia Feki
Goals: Shaun Johnson 2
Penrith Panthers: 1. Dylan Edwards, 2. Josh Mansour, 20. Stephen Crichton, 4. Brent Naden, 5. Brian To’o, 21. Matt Burton, 7. Nathan Cleary, 8. James Tamou, 9. Mitchell Kenny, 10. James Fisher-Harris, 11. Viliame Kikau, 12. Liam Martin, 16. Moses Leota, 13. Isaah Yeo, 14. Sione Katoa, 15. Spencer Leniu, 17. Reagan Campbell-Gillard
Cronulla Sharks: 1. Josh Dugan, 2. Sosaia Feki, 3. Bronson Xerri, 4. Josh Morris, 5. Ronaldo Mulitalo, 6. Shaun Johnson, 7. Chad Townsend, 8. Aaron Woods, 9. Jayden Brailey, 10. Matt Prior, 11. Briton Nikora, 12. Wade Graham, 13. Paul Gallen, 14. Kurt Capewell, 15. Jack Williams, 16. Andrew Fifita, 17. Braden Hamlin-Uele