Superstitious Sharks fans might have been worried about crossing the black cats on Friday the 13th.
But a Matt Moylan masterclass against his former club has led Cronulla to a 24-12 win over Penrith and propelled the Sharks back to the edge of the NRL’s top four.
Moylan’s magic laid on two tries while he also scored his first for Cronulla as the Sharks ran out 12-point winners against an undermanned Penrith side at Panthers Stadium on Friday night.
Penrith coach Anthony Griffin opted to rest his three State of Origin stars with Nathan Cleary, Tyrone Peachy and former Shark James Maloney left out of the Panthers’ side after turning out in Origin III for NSW on Wednesday night.
Sharks coach Shane Flanagan was more fortunate. Barely troubled by Origin this season, Queensland winger Valentine Holmes backed up for Cronulla as they also welcomed back Wade Graham from a fractured cheekbone.
The late withdrawal of Jesse Ramien saw Kurt Capewell shift to right centre, with Scott Sorensen returning to the starting side in the back-row.
Penrith opened the scoring with a penalty goal after eight minutes with Cronulla crossing for the first try midway through the half.
Some quick hands from Graham and Ricky Leutele released Edrick Lee down the left-hand touchline.
The giant winger looked certain to score despite being tackled. With the arm carrying the ball free, Lee made the split second decision to ground it over the try line for what would have been almost a certain double movement.
Lee was rewarded for his discipline with Cronulla shifting immediately right, with Kurt Capewell’s offload allowing Sione Katoa to step inside to score.
The Sharks were testing Penrith’s debutant fullback Caleb Aekins, the Panthers’ sixth debutant of the season, with Aekins dropping a Moylan bomb following pressure from Chad Townsend.
Cronulla were rewarded for their first half dominance six minutes before half-time with a sublime set play.
Attacking Penrith’s try line Moylan, who was booed consistently by the home crowd, fired a pass to Graham who showed a deft touch to catch and pass almost in one motion back on the inside for Holmes to give the Sharks a 12-2 lead.
Penrith had to score first after half-time and did so through Waqa Blake 10 minutes into the second half.
But Cronulla reestablished their lead shortly after. On the back of a pair of strong Aaron Woods runs and using almost the identical play that saw Holmes cross in the first half, this time the Sharks went right through Townsend.
The halfback hit Sorensen who found Moylan back on the inside to score his first try in the black, white and blue since his off-season switch to the shire.
Penrith refused to quit, with interchange forward Corey Harawira-Naera charging over from close range to reduce the deficit to 18-12 with 10 minutes remaining.
And the Panthers could have been level shortly after, only for a desperate Lee lunge to deny Penrith winger Christian Crichton from touching down in the corner.
But Cronulla would seal the result with four minutes to play as Moylan and Holmes combined to kill off the Panthers.
Moylan ghosted through the Penrith line and stormed down field before finding Holmes in support to race away and score under the posts, his 14th try of the season.
Cronulla Sharks 24 (Valentine Holmes two, Sione Katoa, Matt Moylan tries. Chad Townsend four goals)
Penrith Panthers 12 (Waqa Blake, Corey Harawira-Naera tries. Jarome Luai two goals)
at Panthers Stadium
Crowd: 11, 742
Leader man of the match: Matt Moylan (Sharks)
Sharks’ next three: Raiders (home), Broncos (away), Sea Eagles (home)