A strong opening laid the platform for an impressive 18-10 Panthers victory over Cronulla in the Jersey Flegg Qualifying Final at Panthers Stadium on Saturday.
The young Panthers now enjoy a week off ahead of a Preliminary Final at Leichhardt Oval.
The Panthers raced out of the blocks against the Sharks, who finished second on the ladder in the regular season. Stephen Crichton's kick-off bounced into touch and the Panthers began building pressure on the Cronulla line.
It took just three minutes for the Panthers to open the scoring. Returning to Ben Harden's side following a stint in the ISP, Shawn Blore ran a great line and powered his way over the line. Brendan Hands' conversion gave the Panthers a 6-0 lead.
The Panthers doubled their lead after 11 minutes of play when Marlon Ritchie finished a nice backline play to cross out wide. Hands' sweetly-struck conversion took the lead to 12.
A customary kick return from Daine Laurie turned bad when Jackson Ferris stripped the ball free and crossed untouched to get the Sharks on the board. The conversion attempt from Braydon Trindall hit the upright and bounced away.
Stephen Crichton ignited the Panthers heading into the break. He stepped infield and found Daine Laurie who burst through the defensive line. He bounced away from the attempted tackle and dived over to score the Panthers third of the half. Hands converted the try to give the Panthers an 18-4 lead at the break.
HALF-TIME: Panthers 18 – Sharks 4
Both sides tussled for possession early in the second half with neither team able to build pressure on the opposition's defensive line.
Panthers second-rower Alex Myles succumbed to a right arm injury, leaving the home side down a man on the interchange bench with 13 minutes remaining.
With seven minutes remaining and time running out, Jackson Ferris crossed for his second of the afternoon. The sideline conversion from Braydon Trindall reduced the deficit to eight and had the Sharks well and truly back in the game.
The Sharks through everything at the Panthers defence in the final minutes but the young Panthers stood tall to progress through to week 3 of the Jersey Flegg Finals Series.
FULL-TIME: Panthers 18 - Sharks 10