Matt Moylan has last laugh over Panthers

Scott Bailey
Matt Moylan (L) has played an pivotal role in Cronulla's 24-12 NRL win over his former club Penrith

He was booed from kick-off to fulltime siren but Matt Moylan has had the last laugh by playing a crucial role in Cronulla's vital 24-12 NRL win over former club Penrith.

The former Prince of Panthers Stadium drove a dagger through the heart of Penrith fans as he scored his first try in Sharks colours and set up another in Friday night's heated affair.

After Penrith trailed 12-2 at halftime and hit back through Waqa Blake following the break, Moylan ran on to a Scott Sorensen inside ball for an 18-6 lead.

Usually renowned as the ice man, he flung the ball into the crowd where his family and friends were sitting.

The home side scored again through Corey Harawira-Naera with 11 minutes to play - this time when he ran over Moylan close to the line.

But Moylan wasn't to be outdone, answering his critics as he dummied and sliced his way through from within his own half to put Valentine Holmes over to seal the match with minutes to play.

"I expected it but I thought it would stop after a while," Moylan said of his reception.

"That's a part of rugby league. It's something you've just got to take.

"You want to get one up on them and put in a good performance."

Moylan's best showing of the year was enough to bring Cronulla level with Penrith on 24 competition points, behind on for-and-against as part of a six-team logjam between third and eighth separated by two points.

But the signs are good for Cronulla, with Moylan starting to fire after a slow start.

He also had a hand in a first-half try, providing a short ball for Wade Graham, who turned it back inside for Holmes after winger Sione Katoa crossed previously.

"The turning point (for Moylan) was the Newcastle game six or seven weeks ago," coach Shane Flanagan said.

"His attacking flair came back. He had a lot of try assists and line-break assists in that game. His mojo started to come back.

"He's defended really well. I know he missed a tackle tonight but he puts his body in front and doesn't miss too many."

Without James Maloney, Nathan Cleary and Tyrone Peachey after State of Origin, Anthony Griffin's Panthers didn't lose any admirers.

Halfback Jarome Luai was again impressive as he laid on the try for Blake and could have had another assist late to potentially level the scores had Christian Crichton not fumbled a kick.

Fullback Caleb Aekins ran 278m on debut, while James Tamou and Viliame Kikau were damaging through the middle.

"I couldn't have been more proud," Griffin said.

"The game was going against us, we dug ourselves into a few holes, but we were the bounce of the ball away from 18-18 with a few minutes to go."