In front of a jubilant crowd at Carrington Park in Bathurst, the Sharks have proved too strong for the Panthers, coming away with an 18-16 win this afternoon.
After heavy rain overnight the field was a little soggy and torn up after the two earlier games, but it stayed dry for most of the match which made things a little more bearable.
The Sharks scored first after waring the Panthers down with repeat sets up their end. After the third set of six in their half, Jeff Robson put a high bomb over to his right wing ad Jacob Gagan leapt into the air, beating Kev Naiqama to the ball, before falling back down to earth to get the try. The conversion gave the Sharks a 6-0 lead, 10 minutes in.
15 minutes into the match, Pete Wallace had to be helped from the field after falling awkwardly in a tackle and injuring his leg. In the next play Sharks hooker Michael Lichaa was taken off after copping a head knock.
A few minutes later the Panthers had their first try! Kevin Naiqama took the ball from dummy half and sent it right to Jamie Soward, who sent a quick pass to Matt Moylan, who flicked it to Dean Whare, who managed to offload to Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, who sprinted to the line and dived over to score. Soward missed the sideline conversion, so the score went to 6-4.
In the 24th minute Cronulla crossed for their second try after Jeff Robson sent a cross field chip kick over everyone’s heads which was batted back by Wade Graham and eventually found the hands of an unmarked Michael Gordon who ran over the line to score. The kick was waved away, so the Sharks took a 10-4 lead.
They backed that up a few minutes later after Gordon broke through our backline and took off down the field before being brought down 20m out. The ball then passed through a few hands before Jonathan Wright flicked it out to Gagan on the wing and he dived over near the corner post. The kick was unsuccessful, so the score went to 14-4, with 10 minutes until the half time break.
But it wasn’t long before Penrith hit back and it came courtesy of a Sharks mistake after they fumbled the ball from a Soward grubber kick, which gave us possession from 10m out. We made the most of it and after a few quick passes from the centre of the field, Wallace – who had returned to the field only a few minutes earlier - sent the ball to Moylan, who threw a beautifully timed cut out pass to Naiqama on the wing, and he beat a Sharks defender to the line to score. This time Soward was on target with the conversion, narrowing the score line to 14-10.
HALF TIME: Sharks 14-10
The Panthers came out firing in the second half and in the 51st minute we took the lead for the first time after a brilliant try to Dean Whare. After earning repeat sets up our end, we got the ball up to our 10m line where Wallace sent it to Moylan who flicked a quick pass to Whare, who sprinted through a hole in the Sharks’ back line and dived over to score! Soward’s conversion put us in front 16-14.
But Cronulla regained the lead in the 59th minute after Andrew Fifita broke through a tackle and took off down the field, before giving the ball to Sam Tagatese 20m out, and he carried the ball the rest of the way. The kick was waved away, so the score went to 18-16.
With 5 minutes on the clock the Sharks gave us a scare when Robson put a cross field bomb into the in goal and a group of players went for the ball, with the Sharks getting a hand to it but sending it forwards before grounding it, so it was a no try.
For the remaining few minutes the Panthers tried desperately to get across their line to steal the win, but the Sharks defence was too good, and the score was unchanged as the full time siren sounded.
FULL TIME: Sharks 18-16