Prowling Panthers shred sorry Sharks

It's been all one way traffic at CUA Stadium as just under 11,000 fans watched Penrith destroy the Sharks 50-12 and secure a top two spot tonight.

The Panthers chose to replicate their fine victory from a fortnight earlier when they pulled the Rabbitohs apart, with three early tries pushing them out to 18-0. The Sharks did enjoy a bit of possession after Penrith's first try and even had a chance to score but a touch-and-go refs call video decision cost them a try to Blake Ferguson.

The Panthers never looked challenged, a Cronulla outfit with poor discipline and a high error rate was never going to rate against the Penrith sides quick line speed, blistering attack and clinical defence. The rampaging form of Frank Pritchard was critical close to the line, his few touches producing a remarkable hat-trick as the departing second-rower made a vital contribution. Centres Brad Tighe and Michael Jennings didn't want to miss out and both managed to grab a brace, while Nathan Smith avoided the dreaded nudie-run by scoring his first try of the year, which helped the side reach fifty just near fulltime.

Whilst they never troubled Penrith in any real sense, Cronulla's two tries showed some attacking brilliance rarely seen by the black, white and blue. Blake Ferguson's chip chase off a superb line break, coupled with Nathan Gardner's freakish long-range effort, were two of the best tries we've seen this season and a peek at what Sharks fans might expect in 2011.

And that's where the Sharks will look now, a plane to Bali tomorrow for their end-of-season trip awaits, before returning to off-season training in the middle of spring toward the start of November. Penrith now have a home qualifying final in the bag, which with second spot wrapped up they will host against the side finishing seventh, 8:30pm next Saturday night at CUA Stadium.

Match Details
Penrith Panthers 50 defeated Cronulla Sutherland Sharks 12
National Rugby League - NRL - Round 26 - Saturday September 4, 2010 7:30pm
Venue: CUA Stadium
Referee: Jason Robinson and Chris James
Video Referee: Paul Simpkins
Touch Judges: Ricky McFarlane and Adam Reid
Crowd: 10,997
Halftime: Penrith Panthers 28 Cronulla Sutherland Sharks 6

Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:
3 Points - Wade Graham (1 Try)
2 Points - Frank Pritchard (3 Tries)
1 Point - Brad Tighe (2 Tries)

PENRITH PANTHERS (50)
Tries: Brad Tighe (2), Frank Pritchard (3), Michael Jennings (2), Nathan Smith, Wade Graham
Conversions: Michael Gordon (7/9)

CRONULLA SUTHERLAND SHARKS (12)
Tries: Blake Ferguson, Nathan Gardner
Conversions: Luke Covell (2/2)

LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary This is the last game of the round that will have an effect on the top four - Penrith's result tonight decides in which order the Tigers, Titans and themselves will finish. Cronulla are here for a different reason - to finish another poor season on a high and send out legends Luke Covell and Trent Barrett out winners. Should be a cracker of a match.
A few changes for both lineups, the Panthers lose Luke Lewis to an ankle strain, Nathan Smith comes in at lock with Frank Puletua added to the bench in jersey 19. Cronulla lose Anthony Tupou, with debutant Trent Grubb taking his place in jersey 19 also. Grant Millington will not start, he goes to the bench, swapping with Taulima Tautai.
We're underway at CUA, Penrith take the first hit-up.
2 min: Shocking start from Cronulla, a knock-on just a couple of tackles into their first set.
4 min: TRY
TRY Penrith Panthers
Scored by Frank Pritchard. Conversion attempt by Michael Gordon successful.
That was almost too easy for Penrith... Frank Pritchard sends tongues wagging out Belmore way as he crashes through defenders to score. Gordon converts to give the Panthers an early six-point lead.
Penrith Panthers 6-0
Earlier tonight in the Toyota Cup Under 20 clash, the Panthers ran out victors in a high-scoring 34-32 contest. Neither side was in contention for a final eight position.
6 min: A lucky break for Paul Gallen after he appeared to have taken Travis Burns out after a kick, no penalty though as Gallen is ruled to have attempted a tackle, not a charge on the player. A piggyback penalty out of their own end for Cronulla now helps stem the tide.
VIDEO REFEREE for a possible try to Cronulla's Blake Ferguson. If he's got it, it's a freakish put down yet again from the departing Sharks winger...
7 min: NO TRY. Well, REF'S CALL actually, but Robinson rules it's into touch and a scrum to Penrith on their own 10m line. My eyes told me it was a try, Benefit of the Doubt at the least. Bizarre decision.
VIDEO REFEREE for a possible Panthers try to Michael Jennings. Sloppy passing from the Sharks and Kevin Kingston's picked it up and scooted away before giving it to big Jenko...
13 min: TRY
TRY Penrith Panthers
Scored by Michael Jennings. Conversion attempt by Michael Gordon successful.
The try is awarded although there's some conjecture over how Kingston came into possession of the ball. Frustrating for Sharks fans after the previous disallowed try. Gordon's conversion is good from in front.
Penrith Panthers 12-0
16 min: TRY
TRY Penrith Panthers
Scored by Brad Tighe. Conversion attempt by Michael Gordon successful.
It's already getting ugly for Cronulla, they're just not getting the possession. The Panthers with some good hard running and they pop up close to the line with Brad Tighe crashing over. Gordon converts for 18-blot.
Penrith Panthers 18-0
20 min: Sharks' fullback Nathan Gardner is limping in backplay, Covell is being forced to cover for him and they're a man short now.
22 min: Penalty Penrith, Gallen ruled to have stripped the pill and now Penrith will get another stab at Cronulla's line. Tim Smith now with too much push and shove gives away a second penalty less than 20m out from the line. Disciple costing Cronulla big-time here.
23 min: Luck for the Sharks that time as a hospital pass is knocked on by Nathan Smith into a Sharks player. Cronulla scrum on their own 10m line.
25 min: Barrett tries going on his own with a kick up the middle but it doesn't come off and Penrith surge back upfield themselves with consummate ease.
25 min: Penrith really slowing down now, a pretty silly forward pass in front of the Cronulla goalposts turns possession over.
28 min: TRY
TRY Penrith Panthers
Scored by Frank Pritchard. Conversion attempt by Michael Gordon successful.
Frank Pritchard unstoppable again, what a game he's having with the limited touches he's had! Crashing over and with Gordon adding the points, it's 24-0!
Penrith Panthers 24-0
30 min: The Panthers open the Sharks defence up like a tin of John West's best, but Travis Burns has spilled his lollies. Sharks' scrum.
33 min: TRY
TRY Cronulla Sutherland Sharks
Scored by Blake Ferguson. Conversion attempt by Luke Covell successful.
They might be trailing by plenty, but what a try for the Sharks! Superb cut-out pass from Trent Barrett to send Dean Collis down the touchline before turning it in for Blake Ferguson, who chips for himself and collects it to score! Brilliant stuff to put Cronulla on the board. One of the last goals Covell will kick in the NRL goes sailing over the crossbar and the margin closes to eighteen.
Penrith Panthers 24-6
35 min: Paul Aiton with a lazy forward pass to Adam Cuthbertson on just the second tackle, in front of the Penrith goalline. Really sums up Cronulla's season - flashes of brilliance but largely ill-disciplined.
36 min: Some positive defence from Cronulla sees them bundle Penrith winger Sandor Earl over the touchline.
37 min: BIFF! Penalty to the Sharks blown and then suddenly it's on for young and old. We'll have some Sin Bins here.
37 min: SIN BIN
Grant Millington is sent to the sin bin.
Millington is sent to the sin bin for instigating the melee with a punch...
37 min: SIN BIN
Masada Iosefa is sent to the sin bin.
...and Iosefa joins Millington in the sheds for a third-man-in tackle which prompted Millington to throw the punch. 12-on-12 now.
38 min: Cronulla fail to take advantage of the penalty, Penrith with the ball now.
40 min: TRY
TRY Penrith Panthers
Scored by Michael Jennings. Conversion attempt by Michael Gordon unsuccessful.
Michael Jennings is away down the left touchline and they won't stop him! He joins Pritchard in grabbing a double. Gordon misses this one from the touchline so the Panthers take a 28-6 lead to oranges.
Penrith Panthers 28-6
HALFTIME at CUA Stadium and it's Penrith who lead convincingly, playing very much like a top-two team. Short of a miracle Sharks' comeback they will indeed secure second spot if they go on with this. The visitors would rightfully feel aggrieved following a few decisions against them, however those small moments don't excuse the error-riddled and undisciplined display we've seen thus far. Penrith will no doubt go on to win this, but the margin remains in question. Let's hope for the sake of Barrett and Covell they can keep it respectable.
40 min: Tighe puts boot to ball, Cronulla will enjoy the benefit of possession to start the half.
43 min: Another simple error in passing and the Sharks have spilled it. Penrith scrum just 30m from the Cronulla line.
45 min: TRY
TRY Penrith Panthers
Scored by Wade Graham. Conversion attempt by Michael Gordon successful.
Graham ducks out from dummy-half, dummies to draw the defenders, grubbers for himself and scores. Too easy! Gordon converts and adds more and more to the tally.
Penrith Panthers 34-6
49 min: Penrith laying about a little too long, giving Cronulla a penalty and some much-needed field position.
50 min: A poor pass out the back for Cronulla and Penrith are able to pick it up and run with it.
51 min: ON REPORT - Blues prop Kade Snowden (Sharks) has taken Travis Burns a bit high and may not join the Sharks until the 2nd or 3rd round of season 2011 after that one. Penrith penalty.
And upstairs we go again to the VIDEO REFEREE - Wade Graham is claiming a double for Penrith, some feeble defence allowing him near the line before the Sharks' defenders converge in desperation. Checking the grounding...
54 min: NO TRY, Graham's ruled to have spilled it, clear separation in that one. 20m restart for the Sharks.
55 min: Terrible hands again, their error count is atrocious tonight the Sharks, Paul Gallen leading by example with that pitiful attempt at catching a pass.
56 min: Penrith looking to exploit Cronulla up the Sharks' right edge but it's to no avail, Dean Collis is able to get in the path and take the intercept before he's tackled.
59 min: TRY
TRY Cronulla Sutherland Sharks
Scored by Nathan Gardner. Conversion attempt by Luke Covell successful.
He won't feature in the finals this year, but Nathan Gardner has produced two of the best tries you'll ever see this year - tonights effort emulating that classic long-range four-pointer he scored against the Roosters a couple of months back. Fantastic break and he accelerates into the backfield. Covell's conversion is added to the score.
Penrith Panthers 34-12
61 min: A wobbly kick from Burns is touched in the air by Grubb, it goes downfield to Luke Covell, and... he's dropped it too.
63 min: TRY
TRY Penrith Panthers
Scored by Frank Pritchard. Conversion attempt by Michael Gordon successful.
The recruitment staff at Canterbury would be salivating at the busts Pritchard has made tonight... he's crashed over again from close range for his hat-trick, while Gordon has no trouble from just beside the posts to bring up 40 for the hosts.
Penrith Panthers 40-12
68 min: TRY
TRY Penrith Panthers
Scored by Brad Tighe. Conversion attempt by Michael Gordon unsuccessful.
Brad Tighe uses some incredible strength to push his way through the Sharks defence from ten metres out and eventually plonks the ball over the line for a try. Field day for Penrith as many players now have multiple tries to their name. Gordon fluffs that one from a relatively easy position, an uncharacteristic miss.
Penrith Panthers 44-12
69 min: Wade Graham is filthy with himself, a knock-on from the kickoff. Some argument that it could have gone backward but not to be. Sharks scrum in front of the Panthers' line.
71 min: Blake Ferguson takes a long cutout pass from Paul Gallen and tries to work himself back in toward the middle of the field but is carried over the touchline.
75 min: A clever grubber into the in-goal forces a Penrith knock-on in-goal, dropout and Sharks with a chance to score.
76 min: More loose passing from the boys from the Shire and Penrith come away with it and JENNINGS IS AWAY! Again he tears up the field but this time Blake Ferguson has him in his sights and nails him. Penrith still on the attack about 30m out.
A rather disappointing crowd of 10,997 at CUA Stadium tonight. With the home side battling for a top-two position it's surprising there weren't more bums on seats.
78 min: TRY
TRY Penrith Panthers
Scored by Nathan Smith. Conversion attempt by Michael Gordon successful.
Nathan Smith avoids the dreaded annual "nudie-run" and scores his first and only try thus far in 2010. Gordon's attempt to make it fifty... is leather perfect. For the second conscutive home game the Panthers have racked up the half-century.
Penrith Panthers 50-12
79 min: Short kick-off from Barrett finds Ferguson, Cronulla will finish this match out with the ball.
VIDEO REFEREE for a possible try to Dean Collis in the final seconds of the game. Looks to me like a Luke Douglas knock-on though. It's NO TRY and that's curtains for Cronulla in season 2010, and the careers of Luke Covell and Trent Barrett. Penrith secure second spot and a home final next Saturday evening at 8:30pm.

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