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A spirited comeback from 20-6 down wasn't enough to win the Cronulla Sharks a win in the fourth game of the NRL's Heritage Round, the final result going the way of the Penrith Panthers by 26-22 at CUA Stadium this evening in front of 11,750 fans.
It was a slow start at the foot of the mountains tonight, the scores remaining level at nil-all until the 24th minute, then the home side exploded. Two tries in the space of a couple of minutes to Geoff Daniela and Paul Aiton gave the Panthers an excellent mantle from which to advance their cause, although the Sharks managed to hold firm after the brief flurry, posting back a try of their own before halftime, Blake Ferguson taking a fantastic high ball to keep the Sharks in reach of their opposition.
The second half opened with an easy try for Penrith and coupled with a penalty goal they opened up a 14-point buffer on the visitors. The penalty goal of course, came as a result of a hold-down from Sharks replacement Blake Green, who found himself in the sin bin for ten minutes.
Green would be one of two players spending time in the sheds tonight, Petero Civoniceva binned with 11 minutes left for the same reason. At the time of his binning, Anthony Tupou had split the Panthers defence up the middle and gone over unopposed under the posts, reducing the gap to eight. Not long after the Sharks doubled their advantage to come within two, Tupou grabbing a brace.
The Panthers looked weak in defence but still maintained potency in attack, Sammut putting a high ball up that Luke Lewis collected to score the match-winner. Cronulla launched multiple late raids on the Penrith line in the remaining minutes but could only breach it in the final minute when it was all too late - Barrett crossing as the siren sounded.
Nothing gets simpler for Cronulla, facing top-four side the St George Illawarra Dragons at Toyota Stadium next weekend. Penrith will stay at home for another week to take on the lowly Sydney Roosters.
MATCH DETAILS Penrith Panthers 26 def Cronulla Sharks 22 Round 10 - Saturday May 16th, 2009 07:30pm Venue: CUA Stadium, Penrith Referee: Jared Maxwell & Gerard Sutton Sideline Officials: Gavin Reynolds & Mohamad Fajajo Video Referee: Russell Smith Crowd: 11,750 Halftime: Panthers 12 Sharks 6
Penrith Panthers 26
Tries: Geoff Daniela, Paul Aiton, Frank Pritchard, Luke Lewis
Goals: Jarrod Sammut (5/5)
Cronulla Sharks 22
Tries: Blake Ferguson, Anthony Tupou (2), Trent Barrett
Goals: Luke Covell (3/4)
LeagueUnlimited.com Player of the Match 3 Points: Luke Walsh (Panthers) 2 Points: Blake Ferguson (Sharks) 1 Point: Frank Pritchard (Panthers)
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary Lots of changes, lineups can be seen below.
PANTHERS: 1. Jarrod Sammut 2. Geoff Daniela 3. Michael Jennings 20. Gavin Cooper 5. Shane Elford 6. Wade Graham 7. Luke Walsh 8. Petero Civoniceva 9. Paul Aiton 10. Matthew Bell 11. Trent Waterhouse 12. Frank Pritchard 13. Luke Lewis Interchange: 14. Nathan Smith 16. Tim Grant 17. Frank Puletua 21. Maurice Blair; Reserves: 22. Adam Woolnough 25. Lachlan Coote SHARKS: 1. Bronx Goodwin 21. Blake Ferguson 3. Ben Pomeroy 18. Blake Green 5. Luke Covell 14. Reni Maitua 6. Trent Barrett 8. Kade Snowden 23. Tony Caine 16. Johnny Mannah 11. Reece Williams 12. Anthony Tupou 13. Paul Gallen (c) Interchange: 10. Luke Douglas 15. Jacob Selmes 17. Terence Seu Seu 24. A Vea
Talk about the game as it happens - Panthers v Sharks - click here!
Teams on the park, lots of pressure on Cronulla to put in a good performance tonight.
First half kickoff: We're underway and Penrith will have first possession.
2 min: Cronulla earn six again in their first set, and quickly spread it wide, making metres down the right flank. The ball is kicked ahead but it's too far in front of Bronx Goodwin and it'll come back to the 20m line for a tap restart.
3 min: PENALTY Sharks - Penrith in trouble early for laying on the tackled player. Sharks to attack from halfway.
7 min: Some more enterprising play for the Sharks again down the right edge but one pass goes too high and Pomeroy can't get his paws on it... the ball flies into touch.
12 min: Cronulla with the lions share of possession so far but the Panthers have looked dangerous on their only outing to the Sharkies line.
15 min: PENALTY Panthers - silly stuff from Trent Barrett at marker sees the Panthers with a set 20m out right in front. The home side forgoes a chance to kick for goal with the aim of going six points up.
16 min: The ball is spilt and the Sharks come up with it.
19 min: Penrith definitely on the back foot as we move to the quarter-gone mark of this game. No points in the game yet but Cronulla defending better and looking far more exciting in attack.
21 min: The home side finally turns on some pressure footy, forcing Sharks fullback Bronx Goodwin in goal and earning a repeat set from a line drop-out.
24 min: TRY Penrith Panthers A silly pass from the Sharks to Penrith winger Geoff Daniela who had moved up in the line sees a basic intercept and the Panthers post first points. Conversion attempt by Jarrod Sammut successful. Penrith Panthers 6-0
27 min: TRY Penrith Panthers Remarkable stuff as Luke Walsh carves the Sharks up the middle, finding Sammut who gives it to Paul Aiton and he's goes in under the posts. Cronulla suddenly find themselves down by 12 after half an hour. Conversion attempt by Jarrod Sammut successful. Penrith Panthers 12-0
31 min: PENALTY & INJURY Sharks - Barrett's been involved in a headclash... then a few plays later Sammut causes an obstruction giving Cronulla an attacking chance.
33 min: Knock-on Sharkies, they can't do anything right in the last ten minutes.
34 min: Michael Jennings slides into touch early in the tackle count trying to grab a loose pass. Cronulla will get another chance with the break looming.
36 min: TRY Cronulla Sharks Trent Barrett puts a fantastic fifth-tackle kick in the air and Blake Ferguson takes it cleanly despite some attention and dives down to score. Conversion attempt by Luke Covell successful. Penrith Panthers 12-6
39 min: Forward pass called against the Sharks - a very dubious call as it's stopped a line break. Penrith with the last set before halftime.
40 min: A final flurry from the Panthers on tackle five yields no result. We go to the break with the hosts leading 12-6.
HALFTIME: Penrith Panthers 12 Cronulla Sutherland Sharks 6 An interesting first half where the real excitement took place somewhere in the middle, Penrith exploding with back-to-back tries around the 25 minute mark, while Cronulla kept their composure to bring back the margin to six before halftime struck.
Second half kickoff: We're underway again with the Sharks taking the first hit-up. Good metres from the opening set for the trailing visitors.
43 min: TRY Penrith Panthers Frank Pritchard splits the Sharks defence as he goes up the left side - and just keeps going. He doesn't need support players, he'll go himself! Great start to the second half from the home side. Conversion attempt by Jarrod Sammut successful. Penrith Panthers 18-6
46 min: Tryscoring forward Frank Pritchard drops the ball, then kicks it dead - and strangely the referee calls a 20m tap for the Sharks. Unusual decision but makes little difference as long as Cronulla maintain the possession.
50 min: Cronulla get some attacking footy but can't maintain the pressure. Fifth tackle kick goes straight to Penrith and they work it away.
53 min: SIN BIN Blake Green (Sharks) follows a number of players already this weekend who've spent ten minutes in the sheds for holding a player down after an opposition break. PENALTY Panthers and Sammut will extend the lead to 14.
54 min: PENALTY GOAL Penrith Panthers Sammut adds the two after the Blake Green sin-binning. Penrith Panthers 20-6
58 min: Blake Ferguson flies down the sideline but with little support he's easily taken into touch.
62 min: Cronulla with some good field position until Trent Barrett grubbers it over the sideline. Their next attacking set is probably their last chance at getting back in it. Penrith working it out of their own half now.
67 min: VIDEO REFEREE Possible Sharks try - checking for obstruction as Anthony Tupou looks to have gone over unopposed under the posts. Last nights standards would see this try disallowed but hopefully Russell "Replay" Smith has more sense... it appears he does. TRY Sharks.
67 min: TRY Cronulla Sharks Good decoy play from the Sharkies sees Tupou go in under the posts and with 12 left they're back in with a sniff. Conversion attempt by Luke Covell successful. Penrith Panthers 20-12
69 min: SIN BIN - Petero Civoniceva (Penrith captain) holds down the player after a break. He remonstrates with the referee but it's to no avail, he's gone and it's PENALTY Sharks.
70 min: TRY Cronulla Sharks Tupou has burst into form here tonight and remarkably the Sharks cross, the gap is now back to TWO! We've got another cracker of a finish tonight, don't move an inch! Conversion attempt by Luke Covell successful. Penrith Panthers 20-18
73 min: Cronulla lose the ball on halfway - Paul Gallen making a hit-up, poor ball security. Luke Lewis looks injured in backplay but he decides to play through the pain - his shoulder giving him trouble.
75 min: TRY Penrith Panthers A fantastic fifth tackle kick sees the aforementioned injured player Luke Lewis take the high ball and score what appears to be the match-winner. CUA erupts, Sammut moves in to convert, and... Conversion attempt by Jarrod Sammut successful. Penrith Panthers 26-18
76 min: Sharks regather from a short kickoff.
77 min: Lachlan Coote is smashed in goal as he gathers a kick. Line drop-out, Cronulla must score within one or two tackles to stand a chance.
78 min: A Trent Barrett cross-field chip - a silly option really - and Penrith grab the scraps. That's the game, and now the Sharks compound it with a PENALTY going the Panthers' way. The ball doesn't find touch! Cronulla with another attacking chance.
80 min: ON REPORT - Petero Civoniceva (Panthers) for a possible trip. PENALTY Sharks.
80 min: TRY Cronulla Sharks They spread it wide from the penalty and Barrett crosses for a consolation try. Conversion attempt by Luke Covell unsuccessful. Penrith Panthers 26-22
FULLTIME: Penrith Panthers 26 def Cronulla Sharks 22 A fantastic game in the end and probably an accurate scoreline. Penrith ran out of steam in the end, allowing Cronulla to run a comeback, but it wasn't enough and the home side wins and keeps their spot in the top eight for another week.