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Sharks storm home for stunning comeback win

Down 14-0 at half time, then facing another 14-point deficit with less than 20 minutes of the match to go, the Sharks have shown plenty of character in coming from behind to record a 24-20 victory over the Panthers in their round six clash at PointsBet Stadium. 

Adding to their woes the Sharks battled injury, with man-of-the-match Briton Nikora struggling with a back complaint, coupled with the problems both Andrew Fifita and Paul Gallen took into the contest, making the victory even more meritorious. 

It was a win that took the Sharks to six points and helped them keep within reach of the competition front runners. 

The Sharks began well enough until a second error saw the Panthers go on the attack, a poor read in defence resulting in first points, prop Tim Grant running onto a James Maloney pass to score untouched. 

Nathan Cleary converted and after a penalty had again gifted his team field position, it would be the Panthers half back to touch down, running down a Maloney grubber to touch down under the uprights. 

Again Cleary would covert and it was 12-0 Panthers after 15 minutes of the first half. 

As has been the case in the opening rounds of the competition the Sharks were their own worst enemies, another handling error, this one coming on the first play, followed by a penalty and it was 14-0 Panthers. 

A Maloney 40-20 with three minutes remaining in the half put the Panthers back on the attack and it appeared they had gone further in front, only for a Josh Mansour try to be called back for an obstruction in the lead up, with the Sharks having it all to do in the second period as they went to the sheds trailing by 14.

The Sharks came out of half time with plenty of enthusiasm and after going with the Panthers early they would open their account courtesy of a spectacular effort from youngster Bronson Xerri.  

With a movement that began deep in their own territory, Josh Dugan and debutant Will Kennedy combined to put Xerri into space and the 18-year-old did the rest, dashing down the eastern touchline before beating the fullback in a spectacular 60-metre solo effort. 

Chad Townsend added the extras and it was 14-6 Panthers with still more than a half an hour of game time remaining. 

Unfortunately for the Sharks their momentum was halted somewhat when another untimely error allowed the Panthers to go back on the attack and after repelling repeat sets on their line the Cronulla side cracked, Penrith centre Waqa Blake scoring wide out. 

Cleary was perfect with the kick from a wide angle in giving his team what had appeared to be a match-winning 20-6 advantage. 

The Sharks would pull closer when Nikora made a clean break, kicked over the fullback and when Townsend was brought down illegally in chasing the ball a penalty try was awarded and the Sharks had some hope at 20-12. 

Now chancing their arm the Sharks would give themselves an opportunity to steal the match late when Andrew Fifita ran hard onto a Townsend pass, diving over adjacent to the uprights eight minutes from time for his teams third try and when Townsend kicked the simple conversion it was 20-18 Panthers setting up an exciting finale. 

Now with their tails up and the Panthers tiring, the Sharks made further inroads and pushed into their opponents half once more, the game winning play the result of a wide shift of the ball, from Townsend, to Johnson, a cut-out to Xerri, with the last pass for Dugan to score and the Cronulla side had their first lead of the night. 

Townsend kicked the conversion from 20-metres to the right of the uprights and the Sharks were in front 24-20 with three minutes remaining. 

The Panthers managed to regain the ball from a short kick off but when the experienced Josh Morris defused a Cleary cross field kick the Sharks would control the last moments and claim a memorable victory. 

While Nikora was a popular choice as Channel 9 Man of the Match, he had plenty of willing helpers, with Townsend again outstanding in the second period, Xerri chimed in with some special touches and Kennedy was busy in a solid debut outing. 

In the forwards Matt Prior led the charge and Jayden Brailey at hooker worked himself to a standstill.

After just five days to prepare for the Panthers the Sharks now have a longer turn around until their next match which will be a game against the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday. 

Bronson Xerri, Chad Townsend, Andrew Fifita, Josh Dugan tries, Chad Townsend 4 goals

Acknowledgement of Country

Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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