Digital Image by Anthony Johnson copyright © nrlphotos.com: Panthers try : 2015 NYC  Round 8 - Penrith Panthers vs Cronulla Sharks at Pepper Stadium, Sunday April 26th 2015

The Panthers have fought hard to beat a strong Cronulla outfit 26-18 in their ANZAC round clash at Pepper Stadium this afternoon.

Light rain began to fall as our ANZAC commemorations got underway on the field, was both teams and all fans at Pepper Stadium paid their respects to our war heroes.

The rain cleared for kickoff and the match that followed was a try-for-try affair where the Panthers regained some of the form they had lost in recent weeks. It wasn’t one of our best performances, but our discipline and team work was a vast improvement on last week, and it paid off.

The Panthers opened the scoring 5 minutes into the match after some brilliant juggling work by young Dallin Watene-Zelezniak who collected a pass 30m out from the Sharks try line and broke through a tackle. A pack of defenders then descended on him and knocked the ball free, but Dal managed to juggle and regather mid-air before offloading to Dave Simmons on his inside, and Simmo sprinted 30m to dive over the line! Matt Moylan’s conversion gave the home side a 6-0 lead.

But it was short-lived and in the 10th minute the Sharks had their first try. After working their way up to the field they drew our defenders off their marks on the sideline before sending the ball out to Sosaia Feki who had plenty of open space to sprint 15m and dive over just inside the corner post. The kick was waved away, so the score went to 6-4.

They backed that up with another try in the 15th minute after the Sharks were awarded a penalty 1m out from their line, giving them a fresh set of six from 10m out. Again they targeted our right wing and Ricky Leutele found a hole big enough to run through and dive over to score. The kick was on target this time so Cronulla took the lead 10-6.

Play was stopped in the 18th minute when Jeremy Latimore was on the receiving end of a spear tackle. He had to leave the field to be checked by the doctor and Michael Ennis and Chris Heighington were placed on report. Lats later returned to the field after being cleared by medical staff.

In our next set Matt Moylan came agonisingly close to scoring when he was handed an inside ball and barged his way across the line, but he was held up so it was Cronulla’s ball.

We did get those extra points in the 28th minute though after the Panthers were awarded back to back sets a metre out from our line after the Sharks got a hand to Isaac John’s grubber kick before Penrith regathered. We sent the ball wide from John to Moylan who then flicked the ball to Watene-Zelezniak, and he dived over to get the ball down. Moylan’s kick went with the wind, straight through the uprights to put the home side back in front 12-10.

Two minutes later the visitors hit back when fullback Valentine Holmes was handed the ball on the sideline and he sprinted 10m before leaping into the air and diving towards the line, getting the ball down millimetres before being pushed into touch. The conversion added the extra two to give the Sharks a 16-12 lead.

With less than a minute on the clock the Sharks were awarded a penalty after Ennis lost the ball but claimed a Panthers player had knocked it out of his hands. They took the kick for two to extend their lead to 18-12 just as the half time siren sounded.

HALF TIME: 18-12 Sharks

The Panthers got off to the perfect start this half with a try in the 45th minute to Moyza! It all started when Captain Lewis Brown offloaded to Watene-Zelezniak 30m out from our line, he threw an overhead pass to Simmons who sprinted 10m before handing the ball to Moylan who carried it 20m and got close enough to the line to stretch his arm out and plant the ball down, dragging a Sharks defender with him. He converted his own try to even the score 18-18.

In Cronulla’s next set they were awarded a penalty and a fresh set of six 10m out from their try-line but a dropped ball got Penrith out of trouble and it was a turnover.

In the 56th minute the Panthers were awarded a penalty after Wade Graham knocked Moylan out of the way as he was going for the ball. We took the kick for two to take the lead 20-18.

With 8 minutes on the clock, Penrith extended their lead after Tyrone Peachey chased a Will Smith grubber kick from 10m out and beat a couple of Sharks defenders to the ball to plant it down over the line! Moylan sent the ball straight through the uprights for the conversion, taking the score to 26-18.

We defended well for the rest of the game and held off a strong Sharks attack to walk away with the win.

FULL TIME: 26-18 Panthers