Penrith’s finals charge appears to have run out of puff after Todd Carney and Jeff Robson put on a masterclass to steer Cronulla to a 38-10 win over the Panthers at Remondis Stadium.
The loss leaves the Panthers four points out of the top eight and facing a do-or-die clash with the second placed Sydney Roosters on Friday night.
The Sharks emerged the better from a tight arm wrestle in the opening quarter of the game, with former Panthers star Michael Gordon opening their account with an impressive try in the 17th minute.
Cronulla went up 8-0 when Adam Docker was questionably penalised for a late tackle on Carney, who landed a penalty goal to give the Sharks the advantage.
Carney continued his impressive afternoon out when he weaved his way through the Panthers’ defence to score a brilliant individual try, with Sosaia Feki crossing out wide to cap off a brilliant first half and give the Sharks a 20-0 lead at the break.
The Panthers were fuming over a decision to disallow a James Segeyaro try in the first half – the video referee agreeing with on-field officials that Tim Grant had walked off the mark and prevented Cronulla from making a tackle on Segeyaro when he dived over from dummy half.
Any chance Penrith had of a second half revival was snuffed out when Gordon bagged his second – kicking ahead for himself close to the line and scoring under the posts while an uninterested Penrith watched on.
The Panthers put in a slightly improved effort in the second half – James Roberts bagged two tries and both Matt Moylan and Lewis Brown came desperately close to scoring four-pointers of their own – but Cronulla never looked likely to be beaten.
Penrith must now beat the Roosters on Friday night to keep their finals hopes alive.