Sharks Outclass Panthers to win Jersey Flegg Cup
The Cronulla Sharks have claimed their maiden Jersey Flegg Premiership with a 22-12 victory over the Penrith Panthers at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday afternoon.
It wasn't until the latter stages of the contest where Cronulla broke the stone-wall defence of the Panthers - the side who built their 2018 campaign on strong defensive efforts as they boasted the best in the competition throughout the regular season.
With the scores locked at 12-all with just under 20 minutes remaining, the Sharks potent attack proved to be the difference in the end with tries to Bronson Xerri and halfback Braydon Trindall icing a historic win.
It was a hard-fought opening stanza with both sides enjoying some valuable field position, but a dynamic 50-metre bust from Panthers fullback Dane Laurie gave his side the momentum, but they were unable to capitalise as the Sharks defence held strong.
Just moments later, a one-on-one strip from Jayden Millard on Laurie put Cronulla straight onto the attack before they opened the scoring through Harrison Smith after he pounced on a late offload close to the line.
But the Panthers would ensure their lead was short-lived after a carbon-copy run from Laurie on a kick return gave his side a golden chance, and the live-wire fullback finished off what he started when he crashed over just a few tackles later..
Brendan Hands converted from adjacent to the uprights to set a six-all scoreline after 20 minutes.
The Panthers continued to flex their muscles in defence with some resilient efforts on their goal line holding out the Sharks' attacking raids, time and time again.
But the Penrith defence eventually cracked after Isaac Lumelume produced an acrobatic finish in the left-hand corner after a classy backline movement.
Braydon Trindall nailed the sideline conversion to take a 12-6 lead into half-time.
Panthers enjoyed a blistering start in the second-half with an early try to John Trimboli; the backrower barging his way over from close-range before Hands converted to draw the game level in the 40th minute.
After a tug-of-war period followed with both sides unable to break the deadlock, it was Xerri who eventually gave his side the lead after he was on the receiving end of a brilliant short ball from fullback Luke Polselli.
And the live-wire No.1 continued to threaten with the ball in the closing stages with a strong break through the middle-third, and they eventually reaped the rewards when Trindall sliced through off a lethal right-foot step for the match-winning try.
CRONULLA 22 (H Smith I Lumelume B Xerri B Trindall tries Trindall 3 goals) bt PENRITH 12 (D Laurie J Trimboli tries B Hands 2 goals).