The Cronulla Sharks travelled to face the high-flying Penrith Panthers as they looked to pick up their first win against a top-eight side in 2020.
As expected, the Panthers started the faster and in just the fourth minute, following a penalty, Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai shifted the ball to Viliame Kikau who charged over the top of Sharks half-back Braydon Trindall to score.
The Sharks had a chance to hit back in the tenth minute but Jesse Ramien couldn’t find the pass inside before dropping the ball under pressure from Luai.
Just two minutes later, Cronulla were shown just how to finish off their chances as Luai stepped across the line to force Mulitalo to get dragged inside and the half-back threw a pass out to Josh Mansour who ran ten-metres to score a try on his 150th NRL game.
With just under 20 minutes gone, Matt Moylan and Will Kennedy combined to released Mulitalo down the left-wing, and with just one man to beat pass back inside to Kennedy but the full-back was clattered into touch.
In the Panthers very next set, a third try followed.
Liam Martin showed a bit of footwork to get past Moylan and Josh Dugan. He then pushed past Kennedy and passed right to Brent Naden to score his ninth of the season.
Once again the Sharks made a break down the left, this time through Dugan.
This caught the Panthers off guard and Mansour was penalised for being offside.
Following a quick play-the-ball from Trindall, Ramien collected the ball and charged and twisted his way over to score under the posts.
In the final minute of the half, the Panthers were once again deep inside Cronulla territory.
On the last tackle, Cleary’s kick was inch-perfect for Stephen Crichton to claim and the young centre dropped over the line to go top of the try-scoring ladder.
HALF-TIME: Penrith Panthers 22-6 Cronulla Sharks
The Sharks should have opened the second half scoring after Jack Williams finished off a good move.
Braydon Trindall picked up an offload from his ankles and broke free, setting off Williams who then beat three Panthers defenders to score.
However, Trindall knocked the ball on as he picked up and the try was scrapped.
The Panthers then bombed a try of their own as Tyrone May got outside Dugan and looked to have stretched over but the centre grounded the ball short and then dropped it as the scores remained 22-6.
With half an hour to go, Williams was penalised for a ruck infringement which gifted the Panthers a fresh set inside the Sharks ten-metre line.
Liam Martin was the one who benefitted through as he received a short ball and busted through the Cronulla line to score his first of the night.
Penrith began to run riot just shy of the hour mark after a sloppy fifth tackle play somehow bounced back the way of the home side and Luai stepped back against the grain and turned and stretched over for try number six.
With 16 minutes to go, Mansour grabbed his brace.
Another turnover near the halfway line, James Fisher-Harris turned into a half-back to create a three-on-one overlap as Luai and Crichton pushed the ball out to the winger to make it 38-6.
The Sharks were determined not to stay 32-points behind and Connor Tracey picked up from dummy-half and burrowed over the line.
The Panthers controlled the remainder of the game and the final whistle came for a 26-point win for Penrith.
FULL-TIME: Penrith Panthers 38-12 Cronulla Sharks
Edwards, Mansour, May, Crichton, Naden, Luai, Cleary, Tamou, Koroisau, Fisher-Harris, Kikau, Martin, Yeo
Interchanges: Laurie, Leniu, Leota, Tetevano
Tries: Kikau, Mansour (2), Naden, Crichton, Martin, Luai
Goals: Cleary (5/7)
Kennedy, Katoa, Dugan, Ramien, Mulitalo, Moylan, Trindall, Woods, Brialey, Rudolf, Talakai, Graham, Sorensen
Interchanges: Hamlin-Uele, Tracey, Williams, Hunt
Tries: Ramien, Tracey
Goals: Moylan (2/2)
Referee: A. Klein
Touch Judges: B. Sharpe, G. Badger
Video Referee: B. Galea
Image Source: @NRL (twitter)