After conceding three tries in the first 25 minutes it was a mountain too high to climb for the SG Ball Sharks who suffered a 36-16 defeat in their round two match against the Panthers.
The Sharks were denied first point by a dubious call from the touch judge 12 minutes in and the Panthers made them pay, scoring three times in quick succession and before the Cronulla side had a chance to respond it was 18-0 and a win away from home was going to prove difficult.
A try to fullback Siteni Taukamo with three minutes to go in the first period gave the Sharks some hope, sending the teams to half time with the Penrith side leading 18-4
The Sharks needed to start fast if they were to work their way back into the contest, however almost the complete opposite occurred, an error, then a penalty, saw the Panthers move into an attacking position and when their dummy half slid over for what was a soft four-pointer, the result was all but decided at 24-4 to the home team.
To their credit the Sharks displayed commendable spirit, with front rower Sam McCulloch, one of his team’s best on the day, showing determination to get the ball down for a try despite the attention of a number of Penrith defenders and following the successful conversion it was 24-10 Panthers.
However, just when it appeared the momentum was shifting the Sharks way a poor last tackle option gifted Penrith the ball and they would add to their lead with a try out wide six tackles later.
A sideline conversion made the score 30-10 and then their lead pushed out further with another Penrith try out wide.
Again, the Sharks showed they weren’t about to give up and their resilience was rewarded with a late try to Ethan Cocco, the number 13 running onto a well-timed cut out pass from hooker Kobie Wilson.
The Sharks cause wasn’t helped by the fact half back and captain Max Riolo was taken from the field midway through the first half due to a head knock, forcing a backline reshuffle, with McCulloch, Cocco, prop Salesi Ataata and backrower Lawson Cotter leaving BlueBet Stadium with their reputations intact after handing in willing performances.
Now with two losses from their opening two games the Sharks have a bye next week and will be looking to open their account when they travel to Melbourne in round four.
Sam McCulloch, Ethan Cocco, Siteni Taukamo tries, Jake Hay 2 goals