A fast start wasn’t enough as the Harold Matthews Panthers were run down 20-10 by Cronulla Sharks at Shark Park on Saturday.
After suffering their first loss of the season last week, the Panthers were quick to respond, capitalising on an early penalty as Jake Hay took on the line and reached out to score.
And off the ensuing set the five-eighth forced an error from Cronulla fullback Kristian Dixon, who couldn’t clean up a floating bomb.
It wouldn’t amount to any points but ensured pressure was all on the Sharks, who came up with another mistake as they tried to make it out of their own half.
A surging run from Sione Neiufi brought the Panthers to within 30 metres of the Cronulla line but again they couldn’t capitalise.
In what proved their undoing early in Saturday’s game, the Sharks made yet another error inside their own half and this time Penrith made them pay.
Halfback Liam Vella skipped on the outside of a couple of defenders before linking with Jesse Buchan who quickly shoved it on to winger Jimmy Donnelly in the corner.
The successful sideline conversion from Hay extended their buffer to 10.
Hay continued his impressive start to Saturday’s game with another clever last-tackle option. This time he put up a well-weighted bomb which landed just shy of the try line allowing the Penrith defence to simply wait before pushing Cronulla back in goal.
The Panthers forced another dropout to maintain the pressure and while unable to extend their lead, the signs were promising as they continued to offer the Sharks few opportunities.
But back-to-back penalties saw Cronulla camp on Penrith’s line and a smart cut-out pass allowed Chaz Jarvis to cross over and reduce the deficit to six.
HALF-TIME: Panthers 10 Sharks 4
The Sharks picked up where they left off, levelling the game just eight minutes into the second half. This time, Carl Bishop steamed onto a cheeky chip kick from five-eighth Cullen Whetu and earned a penalty after the Panthers held on too long in an attempt to slow things down.
Cronulla quickly capitalised as Kage Dwyer dived over in the right corner. The winger looked to be over for a double minutes later when he surged towards the line only for Donnelly to force him into touch.
A penalty goal handed the Sharks a 12-10 lead with six minutes remaining before Liam Sutton sliced under the posts to guarantee victory.
Another penalty goal pushed the final difference out to 10 points.
FULL-TIME: Panthers 10 Sharks 20