Injury-hit Panthers overcome Sharks
Cronulla's three-game winning streak has been snapped by an improved Panthers outfit 26-18 at Pepper Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
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WATCH: Panthers v Sharks highlights
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WATCH: Sharks press conference
Match stats, scores, highlights
Despite missing eight regular first-graders – James Segeyaro and Dean Whare pulled out on the eve of the match – Penrith held the Sharks to nil in the second half to score just their second win since Round 2.
Making matters worse for the Sharks, co-captain Michael Ennis and forward Chris Heighington are sure to come under scrutiny of the match review committee for an ugly lifting tackle on Jeremy Latimore in the first half.
Down 18-12 at halftime, the home side levelled the scores off a delightful Matt Moylan try in the 45th that started on their own side of halfway.
Stand-in skipper Lewis Brown busted out of a Jeff Robson tackle and put Dallin Watene-Zelezniak into the backfield, before he spiralled a pass to David Simmons who found a supporting Moylan.
The Penrith fullback potted the go-ahead penalty in the 57th, before Tyrone Peachey sealed the win by pouncing on a Will Smith grubber eight minutes from full-time.
Cronulla had first use of a strong southerly, but it was Penrith who started with the wind in their sails when Watene-Zelezniak miraculously re-gathered a strip and put wingman David Simmons into the clear in the 6th minute.
Unperturbed by the setback, the Sharks replied just four minutes later on a Jeff Robson cut-out that ended in Sosaia Feki running over Moylan in the north-west corner.
The visitors were clearly targeting Penrith's makeshift right three-quarter in Watene-Zelezniak, who missed a routine outline run from opposite centre Ricky Leutele in the 16th that gave his side the lead.
Not long after that Ennis and Heighington were both put on report for a lifting tackle on Latimore. The Penrith prop was forced from the field before returning a short time later.
The hosts – who completed 32 out of 38 sets for the match – almost regained the lead on a set play for Moylan in the 21st, but were denied by Michael Gordon's brilliant try-saving tackle.
There was no stopping the Penrith fullback in the 28th however, when he ran to the line and lured Leutele in enough to put Watene-Zelezniak over with his 10th try assist of the season.
But the Panthers immediately handed the advantage back on Waqa Blake's grassed offload deep in his own territory, one picked up by Valentine Holmes who crossed in the corner with a 32nd minute gravity-defying leap.
Cronulla extended their lead to a converted try on a 37-metre penalty goal on the stroke of half-time.
Luke Lewis hobbled off the field having aggravated a left knee injury in the first half, but later returned.
Penrith Panthers 26 (Simmons, Watene-Zelezniak, Moylan, Peachey tries; Moylan 5 goals) def. Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 18 (Feki, Leutele, Holmes tries; Gordon 3 goals). Crowd: 12,798. Half-time: 12-18.