The Sharks have gone down 26 points to 18 against Penrith in their Round eight clash at Pepper Stadium.
Despite Cronulla holding a six-point half time advantage, a resilient Panthers outfit prevailed in a match where the lead changed hands on five occasions.
Running into a strong wind in the first period, the hosts got off to the perfect start as ex-Shark David Simmons streaked away to score the opening try in the sixth minute.
Upon his return from a long injury lay-off, Simmons crossed for his first four-pointer since Round 10 2014, with Panthers fullback Matt Moylan adding the extra two from under the posts.
The Sharks hit back when Jeff Robson’s cut out ball found Ricky Leutele, who tipped on the play to his outside man Feki who found the line with ease.
Michael Gordon was unable to convert from the sideline, and the Sharks remained two points in arrears after ten minutes of play.
Three penalties in as many minutes put the Sharks into an attacking field position, and the side converted possession into points when co-captain Wade Graham found Ricky Leutele close to the line.
Gordon made amends after his earlier miss on goal, converting the try to send the Sharks to a 10-6 lead after 16 minutes.
Prop forward Chris Heighington’s lifting tackle on opposite number Jeremy Latimore saw both he and Mick Ennis placed on report; before Moylan went close to sending the hosts back to the front – if not from a clutch effort from Gordon.
Despite the Gordon save, the momentum of the match had swung in favour of the hosts and Penrith had earned a repeat set on the Sharks’ line.
Moylan’s deft ball to Dallin Watene-Zelezniak saw the hosts regain the front, the pass being the fullback’s tenth try assist of the season. Moylan took his personal kicking tally to two from two, as the Panthers went out to a 12-10 lead.
In a bizarre sequence of events, Sharks fullback Valentine Holmes kicked the ball dead from the restart of play, before Moylan failed to find touch from the ensuing penalty.
Kicking into the stiff breeze, Moylan’s would-be touch finder fell to Holmes, whose carry put the Sharks into an attacking position.
The fullback – although playing on the right flank – went on to score the Sharks’ third try of the afternoon in the following set of six. Gordon converted from the touchline, restoring Cronulla’s four-point advantage in taking the score to 16-12.
A string of three consecutive penalties again put the visitors into prime position heading into the break, and Gordon converted the third into two points as the Sharks took an 18-12 lead into the sheds.
At the change of ends, Penrith again found the front when Moylan scored his second try of the season. The 23-year-old converted to bring the scores level, before taking his side to the front with a penalty goal in the 58th minute.
Cronulla found it tough going in the second period – a host of errors and consistent defensive lapses ensuring the hosts had the better of the running.
The Panthers extended their lead to eight points when Tyrone Peachey crossed and Moylan converted in the 73rd minute – the points rounding out a 26-18 win in front of 12,798 spectators.