Luke Lewis was a one man wrecking crew for Cronulla against his former club.

Sharks v Panthers: Five key points

The Sharks survived a frantic final few minutes to register their fifth win on the trot, and at the same time hand the Panthers their fifth loss by eight points or fewer in 2016. 

Match report: Sharks edge Panthers in thriller

Luke Lewis tackles Matt Moylan into tomorrow

Having defended their line for what seemed like an eternity, the Sharks turned to former Panther Luke Lewis to change the momentum of the game. 

His 33rd minute shot on Matt Moylan was one of the best hits of 2016 and seemingly gave his team the energy they needed before half-time to ensure the visitors didn't breach their line.

"There are always moments throughout games that are important and that was a really important one," Sharks skipper Paul Gallen said. 

"It was on the back of a lot of back-to-back sets. He's a quality player and we missed him last week. He was certainly one of our better players today."

The man on the other end of the tackle acknowledged it was a quality bell-ringer and bemoaned his decision to pick out the veteran hard-man in the defensive line.

"He just got a good shot on me. He's a good defender and I sort of ran into his space and he got me," Moylan said. 

Goal kicking costs Penrith dearly

Despite scoring four tries to three, the Panthers fell short by two points to record yet another heartbreaking loss. It could have been a different story had sharpshooter Jamie Soward brought his usually reliable kicking boots. 

The Panthers No.7 managed just one goal from three attempts, including a 79th minute effort that would have levelled the scores, while Matt Moylan missed with his only attempt.

Sharks skipper Paul Gallen admits he thought Soward's shot would sail over and send the match into golden point.

"I thought he'd kick it. 'Pricey' (Sharks assistant coach Steve Price) backed him out actually and he was right," a relieved Gallen said. 

"Me and Pricey are always having a go at each other. I thought he'd be wrong for sure. 'Sowie' missed one from there earlier and I thought he'd get this one right but thankfully he missed."

Panthers skipper Moylan relieved Soward of the kicking duties following a try to James Fisher-Harris in the 61st minute but was also unsuccessful.

The Penrith fullback admits he was surprised to take the shot, saying: "He asked me to take that one. I'm not too sure...I didn't really ask him why." 

 

 

Flanagan happy with Ennis's 'enthusiasm'

The only reward the Sharks received for Lewis's big tackle was another set of six in defence after renowned niggler Michael Ennis was penalised for running in and making contact with Moylan that sparked a minor melee.

The Sharks managed to hold out the visitors on that occasion, and despite conceding the penalty, Sharks coach Shane Flanagan says he has no problem with his dummy-half's at times over-exuberance in defence.

"The enthusiasm that Mick shows, that's why he's such a good player," Flanagan said. 

"He's enthusiastic, he gets in there and competes and he went in there to pat his mate on the back and he gave away a penalty. The number of times he does it and doesn't give a penalty away and creates that atmosphere in the group...I'll take that." 

Panthers suffer more heartbreak

Losing at the death has become an all too familiar story for the Panthers in 2016. Their five losses this year have been by a combined margin of 19 points; the lowest cumulative total in NRL history.

Sunday's two-point loss was the third time they had been beaten by a kick, but Panthers coach Anthony Griffin says there are still plenty of positives to take out of his side's performances. 

"Although we're not winning on the scoreboard at the moment, we're winning a lot of ways as far as the team we're building and the resilience we're showing," he said.

"It hurts at the moment but when we get better and mature a bit more then we'll win games like that."

Chad Townsend delivers at the death

Shane Flanagan has praised Chad Townsend for – as he put it – "growing up" as the season has progressed.

The Sharks halfback sliced straight through in the 65th minute to send his halves partner Jams Maloney over to level the scores, and it's that attacking intent that his coach wants to see more of. 

"Chad has got to back himself. He's a really dangerous runner when he wants to run and he's got some speed as you saw tonight," Flanagan said.

"I thought that was a great opportunity and he took it with Jimmy supporting on the inside. That's what we love from our two halves."

Townsend is in his second stint in the Shire after spending two seasons at the Warriors and Flanagan believes he is warming up to the task with three tries in eight games. 

"I think Chad's grown up a little bit. He understands the game now and he's getting better week in week out. The combinations with James and Michael and Benny at the back are coming together.'