The winning streak of the NYC Panthers has come to an end courtesy of a 34-all draw against Cronulla Sharks at Pepper Stadium on Sunday.
Severely down on troops, Cam Ciraldo’s outfit battled bravely and came within a whisker of victory.
The Sharks opened the scoring after only four minutes as Sione Katoa cut back from his wing to slice through some soft Panthers defence. Bessie Aufaga-Toomaga knocked the conversion over for a 6-0 lead.
Cronulla forward Eddie Faalua showed impressive strength as he crashed over in the tackle eight minutes later. The successful conversion made it 12-0.
Reed Izzard hit back for the Panthers as he dummied and went himself in the 20th minute. Despite the efforts of two tacklers, the makeshift playmaker reached out to score. Jarome Luai was on target with the conversion to cut the lead back to a converted try.
Ten minutes before the break some slick hands on the right edge sent Panthers centre Braidon Burns over in the corner. Luai’s attempted conversion was waved away, with the score remaining 12-10.
After a period of sustained pressure on the Sharks line, hooker Wayde Egan scooted out of dummy half to plant the ball in the 37th minute. Luai sent the conversion sailing over for a 16-12 lead.
HALFTIME – Panthers 16-12
In 45th minute a smart ball back on the inside from Luai sent Daniel Brown into the clear. The Panthers fullback turned on the afterburners and sped away for a try between the posts. Luai’s conversion made it 22-12.
On the back of a penalty, Cronulla went on the attack and immediately found space down the left flank for winger Katoa to score his second try of the game. The successful conversion brought the score back to 22-18 in the 51st minute.
The Sharks had found some rhythm in attack and five minutes later centre Jesse Ramien cut through to score out wide. The conversion attempt was waved away, leaving the game locked up at 22-all.
In the 62nd minute Luai found the perfect grubber and Liam Martin pounced on the bouncing ball to give the Panthers the lead again. Luai then sent the conversion sailing over and it was 28-22.
With 13 minutes to play Katoa grabbed his third try for the Sharks in spectacular fashion, finishing off some desperate offloads on the last tackle. Aufafa-Toumaga’s conversion levelled the scores at 28-all.
It wouldn’t remain the way for long. Jack Hetherington couldn’t believe his luck as a gap opened up for him close to Cronulla’s line and he touched down. Luai again converted to make it 34-28 with seven minutes to play.
The seesawing contest continued as Faalua crashed over after a deft chip kick and some nice hands on the left edge. The conversion was sent between the sticks, making it 34-all with three minutes left in the contest.
Some hectic play in the closing moments almost saw the Panthers then the Sharks snatch victory but neither side could finish off their chances.
FULLTIME – Panthers 34 – 34 Sharks