SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 18: Bronson Xerri of the Sharks runs the ball during the round 6 NRL rugby league match between the Sharks and the Panthers at PointsBet Stadium on April 18, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 18: Bronson Xerri of the Sharks runs the ball during the round 6 NRL rugby league match between the Sharks and the Panthers at PointsBet Stadium on April 18, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

Teen star brings Sharks back from the dead

Dear Josh Addo-Carr, your title of rugby league's fastest man is seriously under threat.

On a night when Cronulla seemed deader than disco, it took 18-year-old rookie Bronson Xerri - who we're tipping has never even heard of Saturday Night Fever - to steal the show via a scorching 65m try.

Truly, think a play that could earn more YouTube clicks than even his teary debut phone call to mum.

And it's because when Xerri took the ball nine minutes after the break, and deep inside his own half, his Sharkies were trailing 14-0.

Seemingly gone.

Then seconds later, um, they weren't.

Moving faster than bad news through a bush town, the young Sharks centre scorched away and up the right touchline and then - whooshka - burned Penrith fullback Dallin Watene-Zelezniak on the outside.

 

Xerri scored a stunning solo try. AAP Image/Dean Lewins.
Xerri scored a stunning solo try. AAP Image/Dean Lewins.

A week earlier against the Roosters, all the talk had been about Xerri's poor hands. In this one however, it was the brilliance of his feet.

So fastest man in the NRL?

"I certainly wouldn't like to race him," Sharks coach John Morris laughed afterwards of the kid who also played a key hand in the match-winning try to Josh Dugan.

"He can move. Can really move.

"Bronson didn't have the greatest of games last week against the Roosters with his hands. But for a kid so young to shrug that aside on the big stage, it's a credit to him."

Apart from starting a stunning Cronulla comeback, the try also confirmed Xerri is in the same class, and potentially quicker, than flyers like Addo-Carr, James Roberts and James Tedesco.

MULLET MADNESS

And you reckon Josh Dugan's haircut is chaotic? Having been demoted from fullback to the Sharkies right wing, Duges endured a crazy night that included a couple of glaring fumbles in the first half - one of which led to a Penrith try - before putting Xerri away for his highlight reel try and then scoring the match-winner himself. Like his mane, all party at the back end.

JIMMY FOR NSW

Penrith five-eighth James Maloney may have lost the game, but surely he put himself closer to retaining a NSW Origin jumper.

With Blues coach Brad Fittler working the sidelines for Channel Nine, Maloney set up two tries, directed play and threw around his frame like it were far more than 83kg.

In the first half alone, the Panthers No.6 passed for a Tim Grant try, kicked for a Nathan Cleary try and then nailed a 40/20 the late, great Darrell Eastlake would've called "huuuuuuuuuge".

What lost it for the Panthers were a series of handling errors and penalties, including a Dallin Watene-Zelezniak clanger in possession. Indeed, the decision by DWZ to push Chad Townsend when playing the ball was described by coach Ivan Cleary as "madness".

 

Johnson had one of his best games as a Shark. Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images,
Johnson had one of his best games as a Shark. Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images,

SON OF BUBBA

Who would've thought a yarn involving Bubba Kennedy would include the word 'new'?

Seemingly the oldest player in bush footy for, well, ever, the former Balmain centre was in the grandstands for this one as his son Will made his NRL debut at fullback for Cronulla.

Celebrating the mark on the same day he turned 22nd birthday, the youngster had debut jersey presented by dad and then played solidly in a stunning comeback win.

And for those asking … yes, apparently Bubba is still playing.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison watched on. Picture by Jonathan Ng.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison watched on. Picture by Jonathan Ng.

PENALTY TRY

Cronulla earned a penalty try, the fourth in the NRL for 2019, when halfback Chad Townsend, chasing down a kick at the tryline with 15 minutes to play, was tackled without the ball by Malaki Watene-Zelezniak.

Earlier in the night, backrower Briton Nikora lost the Steeden over the white stripe as he was diving over to score. Despite the blunder, Nikora was strong for the winners, especially late in the game.

CRONULLA 24 (J Dugan A Fifita C Townsend B Xerri tries C Townsend 4 goals) bt PENRITH 20 (W Blake N Cleary T Grant tries N Cleary 4 goals) at PointsBet Stadium. Referee: Ben Cummins, Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski. Crowd: 10,088