Panthers still waiting for stars to return
Penrith coach Anthony Griffin conceded his team would need to wait a few more weeks before any injured players became available after the Panthers missed the opportunity to join the Dragons and Warriors at the top of the Telstra Premiership ladder with a 26-22 loss to Cronulla on Sunday.
With seven of their top squad, including halfback Nathan Cleary, winger Josh Mansour and centre Waqa Blake on the sideline, Griffin admitted it had been difficult for Penrith to maintain the consistency required to claim a sixth win in the opening seven rounds of the season.
Captain Peter Wallace played down a neck injury after the match but will undergo scans on Monday while prop Reagan Campbell-Gillard was placed on report for a crusher tackle on his Australian World Cup teammate Josh Dugan.
Griffin said none of his injured players were due back for some time, with Cleary facing up to six more weeks recovery from his knee injury, Mansour's season being in doubt after the facial injuries he sustained last week and Blake out until round 10.
"Tyrone May will probably be the first one, around round nine, but he will still be underdone," Griffin said. "He is coming back from a knee reconstruction."
Griffin was pleased the Panthers scored two tries in the last three minutes to give themselves a chance of snatching an unlikely win but he agreed with Wallace's assessment of the match as "patchy".
"We are really happy with the way we have been going, under the circumstances," he said. "Our last month has been really good but tonight we were probably just patchy right throughout the game. We'd surge and get on top but they would wriggle out of it or get a try.
"Our consistency all year has been good, we just came up against a team tonight who defended their backsides off and we couldn't handle it.
"We did a lot of things wrong with our execution but there was never any give up in us, we were still coming at them right until the last minute."
A 45th-minute to Sharks centre Jesse Ramien was the turning point after Dugan had fielded a James Maloney kick and raced 70 metres down the eastern touchline of Southern Cross Group Stadium.
"We'd had a fair bit of ball and I thought at halftime we were well in the game," Griffin said. "We tried to change a few things but they got that transition after halftime and Dugan went 70 metres, and they scored.
"That changed the game and gave them a heap of energy and made it hard for us."