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3 hours ago | Tim Costello
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 50m from Panthers fullback Dane Laurie gave his side a short wave of 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.
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 6-all scoreline after 20 minutes.
The Panthers continued to flex their muscles in defence with some resilient efforts on their goal-line holding out an array of Sharks attacking raids, but they eventually cracked after Isaac LumeLume produced a ridiculous 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 back-rower 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-Sutherland Sharks 22 Penrith Panthers 12
Venue: Leichhardt Oval
Date: Sunday 23 September 2018 at 12:45pm
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks (22)
Tries: Braydon Trindall 2, Isaac Lumelume, Bronson Xerri
Goals: Braydon Trindall 3
Penrith Panthers (12)
Tries: Daine Laurie, John Trimboli
Goals: Brendan Hands 2