Elinya Chenery reviews the Saturday night clash between Penrith and Cronulla-Sutherland …
Penrith Panthers 20
Tries: Izack Tago (33), Dylan Edwards (40), Jarome Luai (77)
Goals: Nathan Cleary 4 (35, 40 – pen, 42, 78)
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 10
Tries: Connor Tracey (7), Matt Moylan (11)
Goals: Nicho Hynes (12)
The Saturday night top four clash certainly lived up to its hype, with a tension-filled 80 minutes featuring both moments of brilliance and many talking points for the week to come. Most likely an early taste of finals footy, this match went down to the wire more so than the final score may suggest.
A cross field bomb from five-eighth Matt Moylan resulted in the first points of the match for Cronulla, with touches from Briton Nikora and Jesse Ramien before being shuffled onto Connor Tracey. It was the winger that put in the final push for the try, pin-balling off multiple Panthers’ defenders to place the ball down over the line.
Panthers fullback Dylan Edwards coughed up the ball from a towering Nicho Hynes kick, allowing Royce Hunt to clean up and create the Sharks’ second scoring opportunity only minutes later. With Panthers defenders struggling to make it back onside from the error, Moylan made a dart out of the line to cross under the posts, albeit with controversy surrounding the put down. A successful conversion from Hynes saw the Panthers trail by 10 points – their only double digit deficit of the season.
As the rain streamed down, Penrith finally hit back. A lengthy back-and-forth period of play eventually lead to a smooth piece of deception from Api Koroisau in dummy half which then saw Jarome Luai recieve the ball before offloading to youngster Izack Tago who dashed over the line. A successful Nathan Cleary penalty goal on the stroke of half-time saw this match go into the break as a two point ball-game, with the Sharks narrowly holding onto their lead.
It must have been a rousing half-time spray from Penrith coach Ivan Cleary, as the Panthers scored within 50 seconds of play resuming. It was a left-side raid from the home side’s own 40 metre line that set Taylan May on his way up the sideline: the winger skilfully staying within the field of play before offloading to Dylan Edwards to run the final stint to the try-line.
Despite the fast start to the second 40, the scores remained stagnant through the next 36 minutes of play. Although lacking any points, the half was rife with drama through big hits and controversial decisions, with the pro-Penrith crowd making their opinions known. It would be NSW five-eighth Jarome Luai that finally added more points to the tally and secured the win for Penrith within the final three minutes of play, showcasing some fancy footwork off the back of another Api Koroisau dummy half masterclass.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR POINTSEmbed from Getty Images
3 pts – Jarome Luai (Panthers), 2 pts – Api Koroisau (Panthers), 1 pt – Nathan Cleary (Panthers)
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