Penrith coach Ivan Cleary described it as a moment of madness; another example of ill-discipline plaguing the team’s sorry start to the NRL season.
The Panthers’ disappointing campaign sunk to a new low on Thursday after blowing a 14-point lead with 16 minutes remaining to lose to Cronulla.
And Cleary’s side only have themselves to blame after giving away the last seven penalties of the game, including a brain snap from Dallin Watene-Zelezniak.
With his team leading 14-0 early in the second half, Watene-Zelezniak made a strong kick return before pushing over Chad Townsend after a play-the-ball.
And while the penalty didn’t lead directly to a try, Bronson Xerri scored a runaway 65-metre try three minutes later to kickstart the Sharks’ comeback.
“Fourteen to nil, and there was a period where we could’ve gotten momentum swing our way, we give a penalty away in possession of the ball,” Cleary said.
And despite Waqa Blake restoring the lead not long after, Penrith were unable to stop a surging Cronulla side from mounting a stirring victory.
‘Massive brain snap’
An apologetic Watene-Zelezniak rued the incident after the game.
“Any penalties are a turning point, but that was a big one because we had the ball. Looking back on it now, I regret it a lot. It was a brain snap,” he said.
“I’ll work on that and make sure I never do it again. I just reacted to it poorly and I’ve got to learn how to control it in other ways and not make that mistake again.
“(Cleary) addressed it and I apologised. It was a massive brain snap and it hurt us.”
Thanks for that. From a sharks fan
— jye mcfarlane (@JyeMcfarlane) April 18, 2019
Turning point of the game, giving away a penalty with the ball is just not first grade standard..
— Adam (@sargentsarto) April 18, 2019
Cost em the match
— Blake Ewe (@BlakeE74) April 18, 2019
Swung momentum to the sharks. 2nd week in a row I’ll discipline has cost us a game.
— The Bruny (@Bruny1kenobi) April 18, 2019
The defeat means Penrith have now opened the year with four losses in six games, leaving Cleary under searing pressure in his return season with the club.