Penrith Panthers 12 v Cronulla Sutherland Sharks 40
at CUA Stadium Penrith
Referee: Sean Hampstead
The Cronulla Sharks have kicked off Round 8 in style with a convincing 40-12 win over the injury-riddled Penrith Panthers, who were playing their first home game of the year at CUA Stadium.
The Sharks were able to streak away to an early 16-0 lead, despite the loss of Ben Ross in the opening minute with suspected cruciate ligament damage. The combination of a strong Sharks kicking game and Lance Thompson's offloads were a lethal combination that the Panthers were not able to counter.
Cronulla were a little guilty of easing back after establishing this healthy lead, and allowed the Panthers to claw their way back to 16-12 before a second try to Luke Covell pushed the lead out to 22-12 by halftime.
The second half belonged entirely to the Sharks, who for the second week running were able to keep their opposition scoreless after halftime. A 43rd minute try to Adam Dykes opened the lead up to 28-12, and the Panthers were visibly deflated by this early setback. After a mixed first half, Darren Albert was on hand to score two second half tries that put the result well and truly beyond doubt.
Lance Thompson was a tower of strength up front for the Sharks, creating many chances with some great off-loads in traffic. Adam Dykes featured strongly with a clever kicking game, and Beau Scott, Luke Covell and Tevita Latu all featured prominently as the Sharks re-discovered their attacking spark without Brett Kimmorley.
The Panthers, obviously decimated by injury, really looked to be struggling in the backs. Frank Pritchard showed glimpses of his best form, and new hooker Paul Aiton produced some sparkling touches, but otherwise there was very little to get excited about. To add to their woes, interchange forward Bryan Norrie was taken off during the match with suspected ankle ligament damage.
Penrith Panthers: 12
Tries: Rhys Wesser, Matthew Cross
Goals: Preston Campbell 2/2
Cronulla Sutherland Sharks: 40
Tries: Luke Covell(2), Adam Dykes, Paul Gallen, Darren Albert(2), Luke Douglas
Goals: Luke Covell 6/7
By the Clock:
Welcome to Friday Night Footy! We're in Penrith for the first time this season as the Panthers christen their refurbished stadium with a match against the Cronulla Sharks.
Late changes: Penrith lose Mark O'Halloran and Luke Rooney, replaced by Michael Gordon and Nick Youngquest. James Stosic replaces Hutch Maiava on the Sharks bench.
KICKOFF - We're underway!
1 min: Joel Clinton and Ben Ross waste no time in renewing acquaintces - and Ben Ross is limping towards the sideline after making the tackle.
6 min: TRY Cronulla Sutherland Sharks
The Panthers were looking good to score, but Darren Albert took an intercept and raced away 60 metres before being caught by Rhys Wesser. Two tackles later the ball is spun wide, and Luke Covell dots down to open the scoring.
Covell converts his own try from right on the sideline.
11 min: Injury update - Ben Ross looks to have suffered cruciate ligament damage, he could be out for quite some time.
14 min: Both teams are playing basic mistake free football at the moment, featuring plenty of dummy-half running from both sides.
16 min: TRY Cronulla Sutherland Sharks
A nice off-load from Lance Thompson creates a half break for the Sharks, and following a quick play-the-ball Paul Gallen is able to stroll through some worrying Penrith defence to score the try.
Covell's kick is waved away.
19 min: A pinpoint kick from Kevin Kingston sits perfectly in the Panthers in-goal - the Sharks will recieve another set from the drop-out.
19 min: TRY Cronulla Sutherland Sharks
That didn't take long! From the drop-out, Paul Gallen (again) strolls through some paper-thin defence and then offloads to Luke Douglas for a try under the sticks.
Covell adds the extra two.
22 min: VIDEO REF - checking a Penrith try ...
22 min: TRY Penrith Panthers
Matthew Cross scores after it appeared he had knocked on - but with some great relfexes he was able to kick the ball ahead before it had touched the ground.
Preston Campbell adds the extras.
26 min: VIDEO REF - now checking a possible Sharks try ...
26 min: NO TRY - Preston Campbell charged-down an Adam Dykes kick, but Dykes was able to recover the ball and pass it wide to Darren Albert - but he drops the ball while crossing the line.
30 min: The first penalty of the night (!) is awarded to the Panthers, following a high shot from Nigel Vagana.
32 min: VIDEO REF - checking a possible Panthers try ...
32 min: TRY Penrith Panthers
The ball is spun wide on the last tackle, and Danny Galea manages to get a freakish offload to Rhys Wesser who squeezes in by the narrowest of margins to score in the corner.
Campbell's kick from the sideline is a ripper.
34 min: The kickoff from the Sharks bounces into touch, giving them a great chance to extend their lead - but Beau Scott drops the ball on the second tackle.
39 min: TRY Cronulla Sutherland Sharks
Another great Lance Thompson off-load sets up good field position for the Sharks. This time, Beau Scott hangs on to the ball and gets a brilliant pass away to Luke Covell for his second try of the night.
Covell nails the conversion from the touchline.
HALFTIME: Penrith Panthers 12 Cronulla Sharks 22
The Sharks seem to have only two gears tonight - first and fifth - while the Panthers are chugging along in third, just managing to stay in touch. Lance Thompson and Frank Pritchard are both looking dangerous, and may hold the key to victory for their respective sides.
Possession: Panthers 49% Sharks 51%
Completion: Panthers 15/20 Sharks 14/19
Metres gained: Panthers 732 Sharks 927
Errors: Panthers 5 Sharks 5
The second half is underway!
43 min: TRY Cronulla Sutherland Sharks
Tevita Latu bursts out of dummy half from the halfway line, finds a huge gap, and puts Adam Dykes away for a try under the posts.
Covell adds another two points.
46 min: A Preston Campbell cross-field bomb is well claimed under pressure by Luke Covell. The Sharks are then awarded their first penalty of the night as the Panthers try to slow them down.
51 min: TRY Cronulla Sutherland Sharks
Brett Kearney hoists a bomb out wide, and Darren Albert does very well to leap above the Penrith defence to claim the four-pointer.
Covell's conversion never looks like missing.
55 min: Penrith have suddenly fallen asleep - some very basic errors are creeping in, and the Sharks will look to take full advantage.
58 min: David Simmons has taken a quick trip to Disneyland courtesy of an accidental knee. Meanwhile Adam Dykes nearly sneaks through for another try with a crafty chip, but the Penrith defence holds firm this time.
65 min: The Sharks seem to have taken the foot of the pedal slightly with the result reasonably safe. Penrith are continuing to try hard, but are badly missing Craig Gower for their last tackle plays.
70 min: TRY Cronulla Sutherland Sharks
Beau Scott beats three tackles from deep within his own half, and offloads to Darren Albert who has too much speed for the Penrith chasers.
Covell adds the extras once more.
75 min: Nigel Vagana nearly comes up with an intercept and a clear run to the line, but he can't quite hang on to the ball.
FULLTIME: Penrith Panthers 12 Cronulla Sharks 40
A convincing victory for the Sharks tonight, their first away from home in their last 11 attempts. The Panthers were very disappointing in front of their home fans, and will be praying for their stars to return from injury in the weeks ahead.
Possession: Panthers 46% Sharks 54%
Completion: Panthers 26/36 Sharks 31/41
Metres gained: Panthers 1414 Sharks 1931
Errors: Panthers 11 Sharks 11
Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:
3 - Lance Thompson
2 - Adam Dykes
1 - Luke Covell