Cronulla Sharks progressed through to an NRL Qualifying Final against Melbourne Storm with a 21-20 victory over Penrith Panthers, thanks to Chad Townsend’s late field goal.
The Sharks had all of the first half and built up an 18-2 lead at the break. But Penrith came right back into the game to level it only for Townsend to win it.
The game started incredibly fast and the first try was scored on five minutes. Andrew Fifita got his arm free, fed Townsend who stepped inside and dived over.
Valentine Holmes converted, added a penalty and then scored his 22nd try of the season after good work from Sosaia Feki off a high kick.
The Panthers couldn’t get a foothold in the game and they were punished when Matt Moylan sent Luke Lewis through a hole.
The Sharks couldn’t hold onto a clean sheet at the break when the Panthers kicked a penalty on the hooter.
Penrith started the second half with momentum and were rewarded when Holmes took a chance with a grubber allowing Nathan Cleary to ground the ball before the dead-ball line.
Holmes’ penalty gave the Sharks some breathing space. But that was halved when Isaah Yeo crashed on to Sione Katoa’s pass from dummy half.
Viliame Kikau rampaged through the Sharks defence before giving the ball to Waqa Blake whose try squared the game up.
But Townsend’s field goal won it for the Sharks with five to go.
Sharks: Holmes, Feki, Ramien, Leutele, Lee, Moylan, Townsend, Fifita, Brailey, Prior, Lewis, Capewell, Gallen; Interchanges: Sorensen, Segeyaro, Woods, Bukuya
Tries: Townsend, Holmes, Lewis; Goals: Holmes 4; Field goal: Townsend (75)
Panthers: Watene-Zelexniak, Mansour, Blake, Peachey, Crichton, Maloney, Cleary, Merrin, Katoa, Campbell-Gillard, Kikau, Yeo, Fisher-Harris; Interchanges: May, Leota, Harawira-Naera, Tamou
Tries: Cleary, Yeo, Blake; Goals: Cleary 4
Full match reports of both NRL Finals games this weekend will feature in Monday’s League Express.