By Nathan Beuman
The NYC Cronulla Sharks have gone down 32-20 to a red hot Penrith Panthers side in this mornings Holden Cup clash at Remondis Stadium.
Despite some strong goal line defense from Cronulla at times, the Panthers constant pressure was too much to handle, the visitors collecting a couple of late tries to blow the score line out.
The Sharks got off to a poor start, losing Fa’amanu Brown in the 11th minute, when the star halfback took the line on himself, before being bent backwards awkwardly in the tackle. While he tried to play on, Brown would leave the field moments later.
A successful captains challenge by the Panthers in the 15th minute gave the visitors excellent field position just 20-metres out, before a pass out of dummy half from Sione Katoa found a charging Brendan Attwood, crashing over under the posts.
Penrith five-eighth Corey Harawira was able to knock over the conversion, giving the Panthers a 6-0 lead.
The Sharks replied with a try that appeared to come from nowhere, Valentine Holmes somehow putting in a grubber kick out to the right hand edge, where Dallas Wells was able to get the ball down just short of the dead ball line.
Holmes pushed the kick just to the left of the uprights, leaving the scores at 6-4 after 20 minutes.
Right on the stroke of half time, the Panthers centre Brent Naden made a break down the left hand touchline, before a flurry of passes ended with a try under the posts to Solofa Silipa.
Harawira had no trouble with the conversion, sending the Panthers into the sheds with a 12-4 lead.
Penrith capitalised on a flood of possession to start the second half, when Moses Leota crashed over despite two defenders hanging off him, extending the lead out to 16-4 seven minutes into the second half.
Harawira again added the extras, extending the lead to outside two converted tries.
Not to be outdone by Leota, Cronulla’s interchange player Alec Susino carried three defenders to the line, reaching out to put the ball down under the black dot to get the Sharks back in the game.
Holmes converted the try, putting the score at 18-10 with 25 minutes remaining.
Just moments later, Holmes re-gathered the ricocheted kick from the Panthers player 45 metres out from the Penrith line, before ducking and weaving his way through a number of defenders to put the ball down in an incredible solo try.
Holmes was unable to cap off his try, spraying the kick for goal out to the left, leaving Cronulla four points in arrears with 22 minutes remaining.
Penrith halfback Sam Scarlett appeared to have crossed in the 62nd minute, but a successful captains’ challenge by the Sharks ruled that the number seven lost the ball as he tried to ground it.
A short, very questionable pass from Scarlett put Chris Smith into open space, who was able to get around Holmes at the back and put his side out to an eight point lead.
Harawira missed his first conversion of the afternoon, leaving the scores at 22-14 with ten minutes remaining.
The Sharks decided to run the ball on the last tackle, when Taylar Garrett stepped off his left foot and got the ball down with less than eight minutes remaining, hurting his left shoulder in the process, forcing him from the field.
Holmes converted the try, setting up an exciting finish to the game.
An error from the Sharks gifted Penrith great field position off the kickoff, giving the visitors a scrum just 10 metres out. The Panthers capitalised on the opportunity, shifting it wide early, and allowing Naden to cross for his first of the afternoon right on the touch line.
Harawira was able to convert the try from the sideline, leaving Cronulla only three minutes to come back from a 28-20 deficit.
A lapse in concentration by the Sharks with seconds remaining allowed Eddie Aiono to score in the corner after the siren, blowing the score out to 32-20 following the missed conversion.
The Sharks remain anchored on six competition points following three wins and five losses through the first eight rounds.
Valentine Holmes, Alec Susino, Taylar Garrett, Dallas Wells tries, Holmes 2 goals