Panthers Demolish Johnson-less Sharks

The Penrith Panthers have dismantled a depleted Cronulla Sharks lineup with a clinical 38-12 victory at Panthers Stadium.

With the win, Penrith have now won ten straight games for the first time in franchise history. The last team to achieve that feat was the Sharks in 2016.

Signs were ominous for John Morris’ side before the game with star halfback Shaun Johnson ruled out before kickoff.

His replacement, Braydon Trindall, experienced an unhappy start with Villiame Kikau absolutely manhandling him to score and open the scoring for the night.

Josh Mansour then crossed for the Panthers second, benefitting from a succulent Jarome Luai bullet pass to score in his 150th NRL match.

Brent Naden was the next to score, pushing Penirth’s lead out to sixteen points by supporting a sixty-metre break from second-rower Liam Martin.

Cronulla centre Jesse Ramien was able to reduce the deficit with a powerful dummy-half effort.

His try came off the back of a length-of-the-field effort from Josh Dugan and Will Kennedy that ended just ten metres from the line.

The Sharks appeared set to carry the momentum into the break, but Stephen Crichton improved his side’s buffer with the last play of the first half.

The strike centre rose above the Sharks defenders to catch and score off a nicely placed kick from Nathan Cleary. The try gave the Panthers a 22-6 break at the intermission.

The Sharks appeared to have re-started the scoring just two minutes into the second period but were denied by the bunker due to a knock on from Braydon Trindall.

The Panthers then punished Cronulla for their errors with Liam Martin stepping through the defence for his first of the night.

Jarome Luai extended the lead to 28 points following a contentious six-again call against Aaron Woods.

When Josh Mansour scored his second of the night eight minutes later, the scoreline began to get ugly.

A successful dummy-half scoot by Connor Tracey gave Sharks fans something to cheer, but it was little consolation.

The Panthers’ win pushes them three points clear at the top of the table, while the Sharks’ top eight buffer could be cut to just two points should Manly or the Tigers win tomorrow night.

Post-game, Panthers coach Ivan Cleary was pleased with his side’s effort but believed they are still chasing their best form despite the winning streak.

“It was very good but there’s still some things in there that we need to fix.” he said.

On the other side, John Morris said that his side entered the clash with ‘a plan to start well’, but that was quickly thrown out the window after conceding eight first-half errors.

“We know that Penrith start fast… and we just put so much pressure on ourselves. They’re just too good of a team (to concede eight errors against)” Morris stated.

He also criticised his team’s ball control, with the Sharks maintaining their title of the ‘most stripped team in the comp’ by losing three balls to Penrith defenders tonight.

Penrith will advance to play a desperate Wests Tigers side next Saturday night, while the Sharks will look to better their grip on a top eight spot with a win at home against North Queensland.

NRL News Player of the Game:

3 Points – Liam Martin – The former Temora Dragon had arguably his best game in first grade tonight, chiming in with one try, one try-assist and two line-breaks to go with 25 tackles

Stellar performance.

2 Points – Nathan Cleary – He’s taken control of games all year long and tonight was no different.

He was quieter than usual for much of the match, but popped up whenever his side needed him. Snagged two try-assists and two line-break assists.

1 Point – Josh Mansour – Two tries, three line-breaks and six tackle busts for the man coined ‘The Sauce’.

It was a typical workmanlike performance from the Penrith winger, who is enjoying a great season for his club.

Penrith Panthers halfback Nathan Cleary

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