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Young Panthers suffer Grand Final heartbreak

The Jersey Flegg Panthers suffered a 22-12 Grand Final loss to Cronulla Sharks at Leichardt Oval on Sunday.

It was a tight contest that the Panthers had every opportunity to win, but the Sharks capitalised on Penrith's ill-discipline and poor ball handling to take out the under-20's title.

The Panthers were under siege early on and nearly conceded the opening try in the 4th minute when James Roumanos charged for the try line. However, the Sharks lock was wrapped up by the desperate goal line defence.

Fullback Daine Laurie escaped the in-goal and made a scintillating line break in the 8th minute to give the Panthers an attacking opportunity, but the Sharks were let off the hook by a handling error.

A one-on-one strip put the Panthers under immense pressure in the 10th minute, and the Sharks took full advantage as Roumanos offloaded for Harrison Smith to scurry over. Braydon Trindall converted to give the Sharks a 6-0 lead.

Another Laurie line break carried the Panthers into dangerous territory, and the fullback then latched onto an inside ball by Dean Blore to cross for Penrith's opener. Brendan Hands added the goal to make it 6-6 after 20 minutes.

The Panthers shot themselves in the foot with errors and were made to defend their line for an extended period, but the pressure was relieved in the 28th minute when Luke Polselli's cut-out pass flew into touch.

The Sharks came up trumps with their next backline shift in the 32nd minute, as winger Isaac Lumelume acrobatically touched down out wide. Trindall converted from the sideline to create a six-point margin heading into the break.


The Panthers made quick work of pegging back the Sharks in the second half. A short ball by Hands allowed prop John Trimboli to spin his way across the line, and the halfback's conversion levelled the scores at 12-all after 40 minutes.

A bulldozing run by prop Cruz Topai-Aveai put the Sharks back on the attack in the 43rd minute, however an error close to the line by captain Teig Wilton let the Panthers off the hook.

The Sharks continued to dominate possession in dangerous territory, but Shawn Blore kept the scores level with a try-saving tackle on Millard in the 47th minute.

However, the Sharks eventually stole the lead in the 54th minute when Polselli poked his nose through and offloaded to Bronson Xerri over the try line. Trindall was unable to convert, and it remained 16-12.

The Sharks nearly put the game to bed in the 58th minute when Jackson Ferris plucked out Trindall's bomb and set his sights on the line, but the centre was reeled in by the Panthers defence.

Poor ball handling continued to plague the Panthers, and they were punished in the 62nd minute as Trindall sliced through the defence to score. His conversion pushed the Sharks out to a 10-point lead.

A late tussle broke out which resulted in Penrith's Thomas Lofts and Cronulla's Isaac Lumelume being sent to the sin bin, but it had little impact on proceedings as the Sharks took out the Jersey Flegg decider with a 10-point win.


Acknowledgement of Country

Penrith Panthers players and staff respect and honour the traditional custodians of the land and pay our respects to their elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.