Battered Sharks top Panthers in thriller
The Cronulla Sharks have managed to snatch victory in the
final minutes of their game against the Penrith Panthers, winning 24-20 at
While the Panthers led for the majority of the game, a sensational Jeff Robson try sealed the win for the home side - just their second of the season.
- Graham took obstruction dive: Cleary
- I was definitely obstructed: Graham
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The day would prove to be a positive one for Cronulla on and off the field, with the announcement just before kick-off that Australian prop Andrew Fifita had re-signed with the club for a further four years. Yet the match still had a strange start, with centre Blake Ayshford omitted for the returned Beau Ryan - only to be recalled when Jonathan Wright was injured in the warm-up.
The Panthers were left reeling after failing to back up a win from the previous week for the fourth time this season, though several players in the form of Josh Mansour, Dean Whare and Jamal Idris would have done their chances of playing representative football next weekend no harm.
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In typical Remondis Stadium fashion, the first ten minutes of the game was an end-to-end display of clinical rugby league. Big Penrith centre Idris was making his opposition players pay for even trying to tackle him.
The Panthers drew first blood in the first ten minutes off the back of a Peter Wallace cross-field bomb.
Dropping down towards the left edge, the kick proved too much for returning Sharks winger Beau Ryan who, while contesting in the air, spilled the ball near his try-line. Ryan's error allowing his opposite man Josh Mansour to pick up the scraps and claim Penrith's first try of the afternoon.
Sharks five-eighth and part-time Eminem lookalike Todd Carney was able to hit back for his side in the 16th minute.
Carney forced his way over the line with a sneaky roll after deciding that going himself was the best option, although subsequently his troublesome hamstring saw his game finish for the afternoon. With Michael Gordon's conversion ricocheting off the up-right, his former club remained two points in front.
The Panthers extended their advantage in the 20th minute through David Simmons. In his second game back from a hamstring injury, the veteran winger completed a backline play that began in the hands of Idris on the other side of the paddock.
In what proved to be a tit-for-tat game, the Sharks would capitalise off a mistake from interchange hooker James Segeyaro with three minutes remaining in the first half.
The Papua New Guinean international was unable to control the ball from a Jeff Robson grubber. Consequentially, the Sharks halfback picked up the scraps before sending his centre Ricky Leutele over the line to close the gap again to 12-10 in favour of Penrith at half-time.
The second half would replicate the first in many ways, with the opening stages proving again to be end-to-end footy. After 15 minutes of equal possession, Gordon levelled the playing field with a Sharks penalty goal from 35 metres out in what was fast becoming an exhilarating game.
As if it was déjà vu, Wallace sent another cross-field kick towards Mansour's side with 20 minutes left to play. What seemed like a legitimate try was in fact ruled otherwise when Dean Whare at the commencement of play was ruled to have knocked on at dummy-half, thanks to a stray foot from Adam Docker.
Poor Sharks discipline would follow, allowing for Panthers five-eighth Jamie Soward to kick his Panthers ahead from 35 metres out, in front of the sticks, for a 14-12 advantage.
Testament to their will to win, Sharks fullback Michael Gordon snatched back the lead for the home side in the 68th minute after a towering bomb from Jeff Robson down the centre of the field.
Gordon, who was ruled to be onside by the video referee, stormed through downfield before leaping over his opposite No.1 Matt Moylan to get his side in front for the first time of the afternoon with an 18-14 scoreline once his conversion was successful.
But it wouldn't end there. With Penrith centre Dean Whare busting through some indifferent defence, the incumbent Kiwi centre threw a ball inside for his captain Wallace to race away 40 metres and get his side back into the lead with seven minutes remaining.
With three minutes left in the half, the Sharks would unbelievably hit back once again through the magical hands of Robson. The halfback, who was thrown an average ball from a racing Wade Graham, controlled the ball in ridiculous fashion before scoring his side's fourth try of the afternoon.
Nervous moments pursued in the dying stages of the game for the home side, spilling a Penrith short kick-off. Panthers centre Whare crossed the stripe with 58 seconds remaining but it would be ruled to have come from an obstruction play, with the line impeded as Moylan made the final pass. After a string of controversy over the rule, it appeared the correct call despite on-field referee Matt Cecchin awarding a try.
Both sides will be thankful for the upcoming representative weekend with a host of injury concerns coming out of the game. While Carney, Elijah Taylor and Sosaia Feki weren't able to complete the game, the likes of Gordon, Segeyaro, Mansour and Sharks vice-captain Graham were attended to at different stages.
Cronulla Sharks 24 (Carney, Leutele, Gordon, Robson tries; Gordon 4 goals) defeated Penrith Panthers 20 (Simmons, Mansour, Wallace tries; Soward 4 goals) at Remondis Stadium. Crowd: 13,669.