The Cronulla Sharks have defeated the Penrith Panthers 28-2 at Pepper Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
After even early exchanges, both sides would test one another’s defence going both through their big men in the middle and sending towering bombs to the men at the back.
The first mistake of the match would be ruled against the Sharks, where Kurt Capewell was bizarrely ruled to have knocked on after solid contact from Tyrone Peachey.
From here, the Panthers would attack the Sharks line inside 30m and look to spread the ball wide through Te Maire Martin who was met in a big tackle from Wade Graham.
Graham would be ruled to be too slow getting out of the tackle and the Panthers were awarded a penalty. Nathan Cleary made no mistake with the penalty shot at goal and the home side were ahead 2-0 after 8 minutes.
From the next set of six, Valentine Holmes attempted to defuse a Peter Wallace 40/20 by flicking a ball back in field to himself however the ball would travel into touch and the Panthers were back in possession.
Well and truly defending their line, the Sharks needed a big defensive play and Luke Lewis provided, intercepting a Panthers pass to get his side out of trouble.
After both sides traded blows in the middle of the field, Jack Bird would earn his side a penalty and the Sharks were up off field.
Inside the Panthers 10m line, Chad Townsend received the ball on the last tackle and softly put through a grubber kick to find a flying James Maloney to get the ball down and get the Sharks on the board.
The five-eight would convert his own try and the Sharks would lead 6-2 after 18 minutes.
Buoyed by the opening show of points, the Sharks continued to march up field and pressure the Panthers’ line.
With slick backline play on the mind, the James Maloney spread the ball to a flying Valentine Holmes would played an inside ball to right centre Jack Bird who would go over the line.
We would be off upstairs to the video referee after Wade Graham was ruled to have obstructed the defender. The try was not awarded and the Panthers were given a reprieve.
Another chance would go by the wayside for the Sharks when trying the same play however an inside ball from Graham to Holmes, the flying fullback was not able to hold the ball and Penrith would be in possession once again.
The home side would now have the chance to look to add points, keeping the Sharks camped on the defensive line for three straight sets.
Not to be out done though, the Sharks held resolute and earnt the ball back after Kurt Capewell tackled Waqa Blake into touch in the left corner.
The pressure would prove too much for a tiring Penrith side late in the first half as the Sharks worked the ball down the left edge and Sosaia Feki would go over for the Sharks’ second try of the afternoon.
Maloney would convert from the sideline and take the score to 12-2 with 2 minutes remaining in the first half.
The second half would start at a frantic pace, with both sides guilty of trying to force a point-scoring play.
The Sharks would be the ones to crack the opposition line though as the Sharks worked the ball down the right edge and a strong running Jack Bird ran onto a Luke Lewis short ball to go over.
Maloney would miss his first attempt for the night and the score would remain 16-2 after 47 minutes.
On the back of their point-scoring efforts, Cronulla would march down field bursting through a series of Penrith attempted tackles. The Sharks were unable to capitalize on the quality field position and the score remained at 16-2.
Once again needing a big play from one of the senior Sharks players, Paul Gallen stood up to burst over the line sending the decision upstairs to the video referee. They four-pointer was awarded and the Sharks skipper would be over for his second try of the season.
Maloney added the extras from in-front and the Sharks extended their lead to 22-2.
With tiring legs in the Panthers’ outfit, the Sharks would continue to press their line with the home side once again breaking as Joseph Paulo laid on a deft grubber out of dummy half for a flying Andrew Fifita to collect the ball and go over untouched.
Maloney’s conversion was successful and the score would be 28-2 with ten minutes remaining on the clock.
The score would remain 28-2 and the Sharks would record their fourth win on the trot.
Cronulla Sharks 22: Maloney, Feki, Bird, Gallen tries, Maloney 3/4 conversions
Penrith Panthers 2