The Panthers Jersey Flegg side put on an impressive attacking display in dismantling the previously unbeaten Cronulla Sharks 50-10 at PointsBet Stadium on Thursday.
The Sharks opened the scoring after only four minutes as halfback Angus Ernst changed direction and found a gap in the Panthers try-line defence. The attempted conversion was waved away but the home side led 4-0.
The Panthers hit back five minutes later as they chanced their hand on the fifth tackle. Spreading the ball to the left edge, Stephen Crichton put in a well-weighted grubber which was rounded up by winger Charlie Staines to score. Brendan Hands nailed the conversion from out wide to give the Panthers a 6-4 lead.
More points soon followed as strong charges from the Panthers forwards put the Sharks defence on the back foot. Hooker Dylan McBain scooted out of dummy half, spotted half a gap and crashed over in the tackle. The successful conversion extended the Panthers’ lead to 12-4.
The grubber again paid dividends for the Panthers in the 24th minute as five-eighth Matt Burton put one on the boot and centre Stephen Crichton won the race to the ball. The attempted conversion was waved away but the scoreboard read 16-4 to the visitors.
Five minutes before the break Staines grabbed his second try for the Panthers in spectacular style. The fleet-footed winger was put through a gap and burnt the Sharks fullback on the outside on a 40m charge to score.
With only a minute left in the half, the Panthers earned a repeat set and took full advantage as backrower Terrell May powered his way over from close range. Hands was again on target with the conversion attempt to give the Panthers a 24-point lead at the break.
HALF-TIME – PANTHERS 28 – SHARKS 4
With a 24-point gap to close, the Sharks came flying out of the blocks in the second half as winger Josh Delailoa latched onto Jayden Millard’s cut-out pass. Jonaiah Lualua nailed the sideline conversion to make it 28-10 with 30 minutes to play.
At this point, the Sharks had a glimmer of hope. However, four unanswered tries in an eleven-minute blitz by the Panthers killed Cronulla off.
Daine Laurie’s excellent offload set up J’maine Hopgood in the 49th minute, and Hands’ conversion restored the Panthers’ 24-point advantage.
The Panthers turned to the left edge for the next two tries, Shawn Blore and Stephen Crichton both charging over from close range.
Crichton was again involved for the Panthers’ ninth try, getting an arm free to unleash Matt Burton, who found Thomas Lofts in support. The Panthers hit 50 points as Hands knocked over the goal.
FULL-TIME: PANTHERS 50 – SHARKS 10