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Sharks prop Andrew Fifita.

Cronulla coach John Morris is hopeful Matt Prior and Andrew Fifita will be available for next week's clash against St George Illawarra after both were casualties in their 26-20 loss to Penrith on Friday night.

Prior lasted just seven minutes before leaving the paddock with a rib complaint after he was on the end of a bone-rattling hit from Liam Martin.

Fifita also limped from the field late in the contest but Morris was optimistic neither were long-term concerns as the Sharks look for a quick turnaround against their local rivals next week.

"Andrew had a knee issue, he's had it most of the year, an ongoing knee complaint but he's managing," Morris said.

"I'm not too sure if it's been made any worse today, the tape there is preventative.

"We lost Matty early which hurt us. He got a blow to his ribs and was unable to return. We certainly lost a lot of grunt in the middle. Hopefully he pulls up well."

Morris was left frustrated by his side's efforts during the 80-minute performance after the Panthers racked up a 20-6 lead at half-time before hanging on against a fast-finishing Sharks side that hit their straps in the second term.

Match Highlights: Panthers v Sharks

Three tries in 14 minutes wasn't enough for the Shire outfit, who now slip to ninth spot on the Telstra Premiership ladder in a disappointing result after last week's heroics against South Sydney.

"It was a classic game of two halves, unfortunately we didn't get off to a good start which we knew Penrith would with a youthful side and a big aggressive pack of forwards," Morris said.

"We played into their hands with a couple of cheap penalties out of their end. We couldn't get any sort of momentum and gave three disappointing tries we knew that were coming as well.

Johnson fools the defence and Graham scores

"We got ourselves together and cleared out head to put in a good second half but unfortunately the damage was already done. We started breaking them open. It's disappointing we didn't score more tries."

Morris insisted the Sharks had done their research on Penrith rookies Matt Burton, Stephen Crichton and Spencer Leniu but played into their opposition's hands throughout the contest.  

"They defend aggressively and have got good line speed," Morris said of the Panthers.

"If you don't get your game right and get it into an arm wrestle and put them under fatigue then that's what they like to do, fly off the line and put you under pressure.

"We just didn't handle that well in the first half. It was a different story in the second half, we moved the ball around and got a bit of fatigue into them and it finished eight line breaks to three."

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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