The unwanted Cronulla Sharks halfback Shaun Johnson has handed the Penrith Panthers their second loss of the season after the New Zealand playmaker slotted a field goal in the 79th minute to hold off a Panthers comeback led by five-eighth Matt Burton.
The Sharks scored their only tries in the first half. Sharks winger Ronaldo Mulitalo was set up by centre Will Chambers to go over and score along with Sharks five-eighth Matt Moylan, who ran 70 metres to score. Halfback Shaun Johnson was set up beautifully after an offload from second-row forward Briton Nikora.
Former Bulldog and now Sharks prop Aiden Tolman was very impressive against the Panthers after he ran for 94 metres and made 48 tackles along with Sharks dummy-half Blayke Brailey making 46 tackles. The two players only combined for five missed tackles out of 94 tackles.
Sharks centre Jesse Ramien was once again at his destructive best with 108 run metres, three tackle breaks, one line break and 22 tackles for only two misses. Ramien has been very consistent this season and I love watching him play, especially when he’s barging his way to the try line or making solid tackles or just fending and breaking through tackles.
The Sharks’ bench forwards played their role as well with Siosifa Talakai running for 135 metres and making 11 tackles with zero misses and Jack Williams made 21 tackles for just one miss and ran for 167 metres. Andrew Fifita also played some part with 53 running metres and also 11 tackles with zero misses.
With the Panthers being down at halftime 18-0, I just had this constant thought in my head that Penrith will find a way and they nearly did after Matt Burton nearly led them to an incredible comeback after the five-eighth bagged a double and set up bench forward Izack Tago for a try.
Liam Martin backed up well after his game for the NSW Blues on Wednesday night after the forward racked up 80 run metres and made 36 tackles but Tago was also very good after he made 102 run metres, broke through six tackles and made six tackles for zero misses.
The Panthers fought so hard to get themselves back into it but after the Sharks gained a lot of good field position, there was only one player the Sharks counted on and that was their Kiwi playmaker Shaun Johnson, who slotted the field goal, which didn’t look like the cleanest strike but he really stepped up in the final minute to give the Sharks three straight wins.
Johnson’s kicking game was also very good and he kept forcing the Panthers to come out of their own end and Johnson put some of his forwards and outside backs through the Panthers’ line. I love watching Johnson play and I’m hoping he gets a contract at another club, which I’m sure he will.