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Sharks shutout Penrith, streak hits four

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 16/04/2017 Matt Encarnacion

Cronulla's premiership defence is now in full swing after claiming their fourth straight NRL win with a comprehensive 28-2 wipeout of Penrith on Sunday.

One week after holding out Melbourne in a grand final re-match, the Sharks again kept their tryline intact to stun the 15,780 at Pepper Stadium and retain their top four spot.

Not since 1994 have the black, white and blue been perfect in defence in back-to-back weeks, including their record 15-game winning streak last year.

"To keep that Penrith side that's got some points in them, some good quality outside backs, to zero again was an outstanding effort," Sharks coach Shane Flanagan said post-game.

The visitors led 16-2 at halftime when centre Jack Bird crashed over just after the resumption, and then Gallen did likewise in the 60th minute to seal the win.

The Panthers had plenty of opportunities to exert some scoreboard pressure early in the first half, but were constantly repelled by the Sharks' trademark defensive grit.

By the main break, the home side had forced more errors out of their opposition and enjoyed twice as many plays inside the opposition 20-metre line.

But last year's entertainers had nothing to show for it and were left frustrated by the rushing defensive line of the Sharks, who in contrast had no such trouble crossing the stripe.

Halfback Chad Townsend grubbered through for halves partner James Maloney in the 17th minute, before Sosaia Feki finished off a simple left-side shift for a decisive try in the 37th.

Not even the return of a number of troops, headed by skipper Matt Moylan and backline flyers Tyrone Peachey and Waqa Blake, could inspire the Panthers out of their rut.

Any chance of a Panthers fightback after halftime quickly dissipated with Bird and Gallen's double-blow, meaning serious questions must now be asked of the pre-season favourites.

Panthers coach Anthony Griffin credited the Sharks' defence but was upset with his team's attack and bemoaned his team's search for quick points instead of building pressure.

"We fell behind on the scoreboard and then we attacked them more on what the scoreboard was saying rather than just settling down and trying to build some pressure," he said.

"They're a very good defensive side but clearly our attack was nowhere near what it needs to be there patience-wise or direction-wise.

"Today was highlighted by the quality of the opposition as well. Early in the second half they were very ruthless, they had eight or nine sets on our line, were very patient, just wore us down.

"But we've got to attack better than that. It's a learning experience for them and it's a long year."

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