The Harold Matthews Panthers have kept their title hopes alive with a confidence-boosting 40-16 win over the Sharks on Saturday.
Halfback Jack Cole scored a double in the win while Penrith’s forwards laid the platform for the victory with plenty of bruising runs.
It was a determined effort from Penrith, who remained in control of the contest for the full sixty minutes despite conceding the opening points.
The Sharks were first to score with Samuel Jinks crossing over in the first two minutes.
But Penrith didn’t let it get to them, fighting their way back into the contest before scoring two tries to take the lead.
The first came in the 16th minute when Justice Sene crashed over on the left edge before a lovely short ball from Cole put Alfred Uelese steaming through the line five minutes later.
Cronulla looked to have levelled things up when Te Wehi Waitere stepped through the defence close to the line but he dropped the ball and a penalty moments later saw Penrith march upfield.
And perseverance played off as Cole chased onto a Jake Hay kick while the siren sounded, a horrible bounce for Cronulla ending in a try for Penrith.
HALF TIME: Panthers 18 - Sharks 6
The Panthers led 10-0 in their last meeting with Cronulla before being run down. But complacency wasn’t an issue in their do-or-die clash today.
Interchange forward John Sagaga dragged defenders with him as he surged through the middle before picking up a penalty.
And Penrith quickly took advantage, pushing their lead out to 18 as Mason Teague muscled his way over next to the posts.
Momentum then swung back in Cronulla’s favour as Kynan Hodges charged over in the 36th minute.
But the Panthers hit straight back when Cole took on the line and sliced through for his second of the game.
In a seesawing second half, Siteni Taukamo scored after a shallow bomb was batted back into the Cronulla winger’s hands.
Again, they couldn’t build on the try, with Penrith going over again, this time Hay turned the ball back inside for Lafaele Tauapai who showed brute strength to take four defenders with him over the line.
Hay then turned try scorer as he spun over to score and extend Penrith’s lead to 24.
FULL-TIME: Panthers 40 - Sharks 16