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3 hours ago | Tim Costello
The Cronulla Sharks have downed the Penrith Panthers 28-2 in a committed performance at Pepper Stadium played before a crowd of 15,780.
Coming into the match off the back of a hard-fought win over Melbourne last weekend, the reigning premiers traded sets with the home side early on but due to poor ball handling were unable to get on top of the Panthers.
Opening the scoring in the eighth minute courtesy of a Nathan Cleary penalty goal, the Panthers appeared to be gaining the ascendancy, but a lack of composure saw the home side remain tryless during the opening 40 minutes.
Biding their time throughout the first half, the Sharks posted tries through James Maloney (16th minute) and Sosaia Feki (37th minute) to take a ten-point lead to the change of ends, while an obstruction by former Penrith junior Wade Graham prevented Jack Bird from extending the lead further.
Needing to be first to score in the second half, the Panthers were punished for a wayward Cleary pass as Jack Bird (45th minute) charged over to extend the Sharks lead beyond two converted tries.
After withstanding sustained pressure on their goal line, coach Anthony Griffin was left to remonstrate after an intercept gave the Sharks easy passage up the field, before Paul Gallen sealed the game moments later despite doubts over the grounding of his 60th minute four-pointer.
Rounding out the scoring in the shadows of fulltime, interchange utility Joseph Paulo placed a well-timed grubber in-goal to allow Andrew Fifita to touch down and complete the 28-2 rout.
While the home side displayed a willingness early on, poor ball control and a series of misguided passes from Peter Wallace cruelled the Panthers chances, as the pre-season favourites slumped to a third straight loss to sit 2-5 after seven rounds.
For the Sharks, a committed performance from all 17 players contributed to the win, while halfback Chad Townsend did his representative chances no harm with a terrific kicking game pressuring the Panthers for the entire 80 minutes.
Next week the Panthers travel to Parramatta for the Western Sydney derby on Saturday afternoon at Pirtek Stadium, while the Sharks return to Cronulla to host the injury-besieged Titans on Saturday evening.
Penrith Panthers 2 - Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 28
Venue: Panthers Stadium
Halftime Score: Penrith Panthers 2 Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 12
LeagueUnlimited.com Players of the Match:
3 points - Chad Townsend
2 points - Jayden Brailey
1 points - Chris Heighington
PENRITH PANTHERS (2)
Penalty Goals: Nathan Cleary (1/1)
CRONULLA-SUTHERLAND SHARKS (28)
Tries: James Maloney, Sosaia Feki, Jack Bird, Paul Gallen, Andrew Fifita
Conversions: James Maloney (4/5)