Cronulla have rallied in the final 25 minutes to steal victory from the Panthers jaws of defeat, turning over a 14-0 halftime deficit to win 24-20 at Pointsbet Stadium tonight.
The match was sloppy for much of the duration, with both sides having five incomplete sets apiece in the first half.
In the 10th minute, Penrith got on the board when James Maloney sent a tidy short ball to Tim Grant who ran a brilliant angled line back in-field, and the prop busted through some feeble defence to score under the sticks. Nathan Cleary converted.
They crossed again just six minutes later when Maloney's grubber had a peach of a bounce for Cleary following through, the half reeling the ball in and scoring under the posts. He then converted his own try.
In the 20th minute the Panthers added to their score again when Cleary slotted a penalty goal for a 14-0 lead.
With four minutes remaining in the half, Penrith looked to have scored through Josh Mansour, only for the bunker to deny it due to Viliame Kikau obstructing Shaun Johnson. The visitors went into the shed at the break maintaining that 14-0 margin.
Eight minutes into the second half, the Sharks finally got on the board. From a kick return, the ball was sent to Josh Dugan, who broke the line, passed to Bronson Xerri unmarked, and the young speedster ran 70 metres and flew past Dallin Watene-Zelezniak to score under the posts. Chad Townsend added the extras.
In the 60th minute Penrith kicked clear again when they shifted right, where they had the numbers advantage. Waqa Blake got outside his defender and forced his way over the line to score near the corner. Cleary converted to give the Panthers a 20-6 lead with 19 minutes left.
Three minutes later, Townsend was awarded a penalty try after he was tackled without the ball, after he was trying to catch the bouncing ball in the Panthers in-goal. The lead-up to the try saw a great break by Briton Nikora who then put in a chip, which Townsend chased and after a Bunker referral, his side was awarded the four points. He then converted the extras himself from in front.
With 7 minutes remaining in the game - and with the Sharks in the ascendancy - Andrew Fifita crashed over off a great ball from dummy half by Townsend, who again converted the try.
From the next set of six, the Sharks shifted the ball right on the last and Xerri drew the final defender before getting a good ball to Dugan who scored on the right side to give the hosts the lead. Townsend converted and the Sharks held on to score a spirited 24-20 win.
Next weekend the Sharks are off to Brisbane in ANZAC Round, while Penrith host the Rabbitohs.