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The Cronulla Sharks have grafted out an 18-10 win over the Penrith Panthers at a rain-soaked Toyota Stadium tonight. The victory however, may have come at high price with both fullback Brett Kearney and forward Ben Ross being assisted from the field by medicab.
Kearney went down in the 25th minute after after he was tackled behind the goal line. He reportedly suffered an ankle injury and could be sidelined for up to three months. Ross twisted awkwardly while attempting a tackle in the second half. Medical staff placed the utility forward in a neck brace and wheel him off for further treatment.
With thunder and lightning bringing about a torrential downpour in the first half, it was always going to be a hard slog for the players. After being presented with the opportunity, the Panthers had no hesitation in going for penalty goal, opening the scoring through the boot of Michael Gordon after just two minutes of play.
But the Sharks struck back in the 10th minute when halfback Brett Seymour put in a clever grubber kick across the face of goal. NRL returnee Trent Barrett, playing in his 200th first grade match, slid across the turf and onto the ball to score under the posts.
The home side went further ahead three minutes later when Luke Covell slotted a penalty goal from almost in front.
The Panthers were able to even the ledger in the 20th minute with centre Michael Jennings brilliantly stepping his way through some flat-footed defence after taking a classy offload from five eighth Luke Lewis.
Micheal Gordon added the extras to make it 8-all and carry the scoreboard to half time.
The Panthers got their noses in front early in the second half with another Gordon penalty goal.
At 14-10 in favour of the Sharks, the match was still there for the taking. Penrith fans saw their side denied a few opportunities, including a 50/50 call that went against them when the visitors looked certain to score. But overall, Penrith lacked the necessary firepower to take full advantage during a mostly uninspiring contest.
Subsequent penalty goals put the match beyond doubt, the Sharks taking the points but most likely licking their wounds in the coming days.
TEAMS SHARKS: 1. Brett Kearney 2. Misi Taulapapa 3. Ben Pomeroy 4. Blake Ferguson 5. Luke Covell 6. Trent Barrett 7. Brett Seymour 8. Kade Snowden 9. Corey Hughes 10. Luke Douglas 11. Reece Williams 12. Anthony Tupou 13. Paul Gallen Interchange: 14. Ben Ross 15. Bryan Norrie 16. Grant Millington 17. Blake Green; Reserves: 18. David Simmons 19. Reni Maitua PANTHERS: 1. Lachlan Coote 2. Michael Gordon 3. Michael Jennings 4. Brad Tighe 5. Shane Elford 6. Luke Lewis 7. Jarrod Sammut 8. Tim Grant 9. Paul Aiton 10. Petero Civoniceva (C) 11. Trent Waterhouse 12. Gavin Cooper 13. Nathan Smith Interchange: 15. Adam Woolnough 16. Frank Puletua 17. Masada Iosefa; Reserves: 18. Matthew Bell 19. Wade Graham
Rain is falling and forecast is for more rain.
Teams are on the field... KICK OFF!
10 min: TRY Cronulla Sharks Trent Barrett, playing in 200th first grade game in the NRL, slides under the posts following a neat grubber kick from Brett Seymour. Rain is bucketing down now. Conversion attempt by Luke Covell successful. Cronulla Sharks 6-2
13 min: PENALTY GOAL Cronulla Sharks Sharks now with a big breeze at their backs, go further ahead. Cronulla Sharks 8-2
17 min: Penrith halfback Jarrod Sammut kicks out on the full putting the Panthers under pressure deep in their own half.
20 min: TRY Penrith Panthers Centre Michael Jennings slices through some flat footed defence, stepping and weaving his way to the line after five eighth Luke Lewis pops up a nice offload. Follows a penalty against Seymour for holding down. Conversion attempt by Michael Gordon successful. 8 all
25 min: INJURY - Concerns for Sharks fullback Brett Kearney after he tackled behind the goal line. Medicab is called and it doesn't look good. Leg injury, possibly knee or ankle ligaments, and he could be sidelined for some time.
35 min: Sharks lose possession and Penrith on the attack from close range. But another turnover and Sharks are just as quickly out of trouble. Rain has eased and wind has dropped.
40 min: BIFF - A bit of push of shove with a dozen players running in.
Half time: 8 all A bit of a grind at times and rain affected. The match is there for the taking.
Second half underway...
49 min: A knock-on against the Sharks and the pressure is on. But again, another soft turnover and the Sharks are off the hook.
55 min: TRY Cronulla Sharks Anthony Tupou scores behind the uprights following a great offload from Gallen near the line. Neither side impressing but the Sharks took full advantage this time. Conversion attempt by Covell successful. Cronulla Sharks 14-10
62 min: Some broken play and the Panthers with a big bust downfield. During the scramble that followed, the ball is passed off the ground to bring up an easy run to the line. But the referee rules that the player had a hand on him and was tackled. Sharks get the penalty. A 50/50 call and not much in it, but it looks like the ref probably got it right.
72 min: FIRE UP! A Penrith player (Lachlan Coote) takes exception to be pushed. Coote and Covell minor dust up at first. Gallen runs in, naturally. Sharks get the penalty and will have a shot at goal.
72 min: PENALTY GOAL Cronulla Sharks Covell in easy range puts the home side up by another two. Cronulla Sharks 16-10
73 min: INJURY - Sharks forward Ben Ross is taken from the field on a medicab wearing a neck brace. Looks to have suffered leg, back and neck injuries after twisting awkwardly in a tackle. Not a great night for the Sharks with both Kearney and Ross possibly looking at stint on the sidelines.
Not much time left and the Sharks still in front, but they are now down to a two man bench and running out of troops.
77 min: PENALTY GOAL Cronulla Sharks Covell from 33m out and in front. All over red rover. Cronulla Sharks 18-10
Fulltime: Sharks 18-10 A dour contest but the Sharks will take the points, the difference being a classy offload from Gallen to set up the the Tupou try in the 55th minute. Stats show that it was pretty even but the Penrith side were guilty of not converting their opportunities. Could be a costly win for the Sharks injury-wise.