Match Report - Sharks beat the Panthers in Bathurst
In front of a packed crowd at Carrington Park in Bathurst the Sharks have scored a stirring 18-16 victory over the second-placed Penrith Panthers.
On a soft and slippery surface the Sharks started well, fell behind during the second half, before a Sam Tagataese try following a Andrew Fifita line break put them in front for good.
It was an outstanding effort from a team captain Wade Graham later said that while they are out of finals contention will be playing for pride in themselves and pride in the Sharks jersey in their remaining games this season.
The game began with the Sharks dominating possession and after almost a 10-minute period of concerted pressure the Panthers finally cracked, Jacob Gagan leaping spectacularly over his opposite number to claim a Jeff Robson cross field kick.
Michael Gordon converted from near touch and the Sharks had an early 6-0 lead.
The Panthers struck back with a try out wide to winger Kevin Naiqama to make it 6-4, before Gordon got across the line for the Sharks to push their lead out to 10-4.
A second try to Gagan in the corner after a clever exchange of passes made it 14-4 before the Panthers would bridge the gap once more, a try out wide followed by a Jamie Soward goal from the sideline sending the teams to the break with the Sharks leading 14-10.
In the heavy conditions the second period turned into a real arm wrestle and it would be the Panthers to go in front when Dean Whare crossed, the try converted by Soward and the Sharks would need to come respond.
And respond they did, two try saving tackles, one to Gagan and another by Robson on a rampaging Jamal Idris keeping then in the game before Fifita crashed through, raced 30 metres downfield then passed for Tagataese to streak away to score.
Gordon pushed his kick at goal to the right of the uprights but at 18-16 the Sharks had their noses in front and 20 minutes to defend their lead.
The Sharks looked to have the result wrapped up when Gordon dived an a loose ball in the ingoal after a goal line scramble, but the video referee ruled otherwise, setting up a frantic final five minutes.
The Panthers threw the ball around and pushed their luck however time would run out on their charge as the Sharks held firm.
The win was the Sharks fifth this season as they fight to climb off the bottom of the ladder with six games remaining in the season.
For the Sharks there was a host of outstanding performers, none better than young winger Gagan who gets better with every outing.
In the forwards Fifita was a powerhouse in the middle of the field, with Luke Lewis and Wade Graham on the edges putting in non-stop 80-minute performances.
Jacob Gagan 2, Michael Gordon, Sam Tagataese tries Gordon goal
Crowd – 8,824