NRL: Panthers edge out Sharks 21-20

Racing against the clock, a desperate Penrith Panthers turned a controversial refereeing decision into a late try before a Luke Walsh field goal in extra time sealed the side a stunning 21-20 golden point victory over the Cronulla Sharks at Toyota Stadium on Saturday night.
Nanjing Night Net

Trailing 20-16 with two minutes remaining, the Panthers unleashed a short kick-off that the referees confirmed narrowly travelled the necessary ten metres before bouncing over the sideline.

It was a decision that gave Penrith a fresh set of six tackles that ended with a stellar Michael Jennings try just under 40 seconds from full-time.

While sharpshooter Walsh’s conversion flew just wide of the posts, the gutsy halfback perfected a field goal from 15 metres out less than two minutes into extra time to snare the Panthers’ gallant one-point win.

Five-eighth Lachlan Coote came close to opening the scoring in the 2nd minute but dropped the ball as he stretched his arm over the line.

Yet he redeemed the error and delivered the Panthers the first points of the match when he chased down a Walsh grubber to score under the posts in the 25th minute.

Walsh converted and the Panthers led 6-0.

The Sharks were quick to hit back when halfback Jeff Robson charged through the Panthers’ defence for a try in the 34th minute and a Chad Townsend conversion levelled the scores at 6-all.

Cronulla centre Ricky Leutele then found space out wide and sped down the Sharks’ right side to score in the corner in the 38th minute and give his side a 10-6 lead at the break.

Coote collected his second try of the match when he barged through three Sharks defenders to power over the line in the 49th minute.

An unsuccessful conversion attempt by Walsh meant the scores were once again locked at 10-all.

Speedster Jennings pounced on a loose ball in the in-goal area to score an apparent try in the 52nd minute but the video referee denied the effort as the ball had been set free by a Coote knock-on.

Chasing a Townsend bomb, Leutele clutched the ball and planted it over the line for a try in the 58th minute but a failed Townsend conversion restricted the Sharks’ lead to 14-10.

Young-gun Matt Robinson erased the Panthers’ deficit when he cruised through a hole in the Sharks’ defence for a try in the 70th minute and a Walsh conversion clawed the visitors a 16-14 advantage.

Refusing to bow out without a fight, the Sharks regained the lead when second rower Jeremy Smith offloaded to Tyson Frizell, who stormed over to collect a try in the 78th minute.

Townsend converted and the Panthers trailed 20-16 with a miracle comeback their only hope of a win.

And a fairytale ending looked to be theirs when Coote sent a rampant Jennings racing across the line for a try moments before full-time.

But Walsh missed the match-winning conversion from out wide and in doing so, booted the game into a golden point showdown.

After Robinson charged down a Sharks attempted field goal and Coote sprinted up the field to put the Panthers just five metres out of their try-line, Walsh found enough room to execute a field goal from 15 metres out and fired the ball between the posts to secure the Panthers’ electrifying 21-20 victory.

Another highlight of Penrith’s win was the long-awaited return of winger Michael Gordon, who was a late inclusion into the side after a lengthy recovery from a broken leg sustained in the team’s round one season opener against the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs in March.

The Panthers’ round 22 clash is against the Melbourne Storm at AAMI Park next Saturday afternoon. Kick off is at 3.30pm.

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