Some gentle sledging from former Panthers favourite Luke Lewis didn’t worry Penrith fullback Matt Moylan, as he gave his representative hopes a timely boost, with an influential performance in the Panthers 26-18 NRL home win over in-form Cronulla on Sunday.
Injury-hit Penrith scored four tries to three and outscored the Sharks 14-0 in the second half to notch just their second win in their past six starts and condemn Cronulla to a first loss in four games.
Moylan, who later on Sunday was named at fullback in the NSW City Origin team, scored 14 points, notched a try and set up another with a gorgeous one-handed pass, kicked five from five and also produced two try saving tackles.
Penrith coach Ivan Cleary said Moylan came up with some good plays, but felt he wasn’t as involved as he had been in many other Panthers games.
The player himself thought otherwise and felt he had been more active than in any other match this season.
“I was probably dropping in and out of games and not probably playing the way I wanted to for the full game and I think I was more involved today and more how I wanted to play,” Moylan told AAP.
Both Cleary and Lewis Brown, the fourth man to captain the injury-ravaged Panthers this year, felt Moylan could step up to State of Origin level
“He’s a confident kid without being arrogant, he’s coming on leaps and bounds and I would certainly like to see him in a (NSW) blue jumper,” said New Zealand international Brown, the man of-the match.
It wasn’t a happy return to Penrith for Lewis, who hyperextended a knee in his first match back at the venue he graced for 12 seasons, though he later returned to the field.
He didn’t report being the target of any banter, but wasn’t beyond offering a little of his own.
“I was trying to put Matty Moylan off when he was kicking his goals with a couple of little slanders, a little bit of fun,” Lewis told AAP.
“We had a chat after the game and had a little bit of a laugh after.”
The Panthers’ Tyrone Peachey, nephew of Sharks legend David Peachey, dotted down in the 72nd minute to settle a see-sawing encounter.
Both teams had two turns in front in the first half, but Penrith were more clinical after the break.
Cleary was happy with a 4-4 record for his side going into the representative weekend, given their lengthy injury list.
“We’ve had a rough few weeks, down a few troops and lost a little bit of confidence too, so that will be a bit of a shot in the arm today,” Cleary said.
Sharks coach Shane Flanagan didn’t want to use the five-day turnaround from their win over Souths in hellish weather conditions as an excuse, but felt the bounce of the ball didn’t favour his side, which dropped to 3-5 for the season.
“We’ve had the rub of the green the last couple of weeks, so maybe it was time to turn and Penrith worked really hard,” Flanagan said.
Sharks hooker Michael Ennis and back-rower Chris Heightington were placed on report for a dangerous tackle on Panthers forward Jeremy Latimore, who landed head first.