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Morris strips it back to expose Sharks' flaws

Cronulla Sharks coach John Morris labelled the Panthers as the team to beat in this year's Telstra Premiership after his side were on the receiving end of another lopsided result on Friday night.

After being embarrassed 56-24 the last time the sides met in round nine, Morris watched the Panthers skip to another healthy lead six weeks later before running away with the game in the second half to win 38-12.

It was a disappointing result for the Sharks, who had won four of their five games since the teams last met in July.

They remain winless against top-eight sides this season.

"We put too much pressure on ourselves and they're just too good a team … we got what we deserved," Morris said.

"We came here with a plan to start well because Penrith start fast, they like to blow you off the park early and that was a focus all week.

Match Highlights: Panthers v Sharks

"So that was disappointing. We had a seven-tackle set in the first kick of the game and Kikau scored a short time later."

Morris was confident the Sharks could claw their way back in the second half had they restricted the damage to a 10-point deficit at half-time.

Those plans went out the window when Panthers hooker Api Koroisau produced a one-on-one strip which led to the home side scoring their fourth try before the break.

Panthers back-rower Liam Martin then pulled off a further two strips on Matt Moylan and Aaron Woods in the second half to kill off any momentum.

"We're the most stripped team in the comp, we had three last week and another three tonight," Morris said.

"It's not good enough, we've got to be a lot smarter than that. That was a big play in the game.

"It was disappointing to be down 16-0 but we found a way to get back into it.

"We just had to get back into half-time so that really hurt. We had no kick pressure on Nathan Cleary and he put it on a dime.

"It just shows the quality side they are and where they are on the ladder. They're the team to beat this year.

"I thought we had learnt some lessons since the last time we played them. We need to be much better than that."

The Sharks' job was made tougher with the absence of star playmaker Shaun Johnson, whose wife Kayla also gave birth to their first child Millah on Thursday.

Tracey scoots over for Cronulla

Morris expects Johnson and prop Andrew Fifita to return for next week's clash with the Cowboys, although Chad Townsend remains sidelined with a calf injury.

"We need to start upping the ante and hopefully with Johnson back, Fifita available and Townsend available soon we can run out our best 17," Morris said.

"I'm confident if we do we can knock [top-eight] sides off."

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