NRL Round 8: Cronulla Sharks v Penrith Panthers | photos

Luke Lewis hit the sweet spot on Sunday afternoon and two points have rarely tasted better for the Sharks. A fifth successive win included no shortage of clips for the highlights reel but one stood out emphatically.

The veteran's tackle that flattened Matt Moylan in the first half may as well be declared hit of the year right now. It will certainly take some beating. 

So will Cronulla, who draw level on competition points with North Queensland after what was probably also the game of the season.

They weren't perfect and had to survive a late conversion attempt from Jamie Soward that could have forced a thrilling game to extra-time after a second-half double from interchange forward James Fisher-Harris.

But Shane Flanagan's side, if they can stay on the park, are threatening to give Queensland's pacesetters a run for their money.

The Sharks have no shortage of spark, particularly with Ben Barba having rediscovered his electric best and the likes of Valentine Holmes and Jack Bird coming into their own, but there is a steel to this team that is emerging as the backbone of their fine start to the season. Paul Gallen and Andrew Fifita were immense. Others, like Matt Prior, also played beyond their pay scale.

The Panthers, no rollover themselves, will know all about it on Monday morning. Lewis's bellringer on Moylan was the show stopper but the veteran back-rower wasn't alone as Cronulla flexed their muscles. 

They seemingly spent most of the first half at their own end, as an offload-happy Panthers left them repeatedly under siege but everything that was thrown at them was not just batted away but repelled forcefully.

If the feeble Wests Tigers left the front gate wide open in Canberra on Sunday, Cronulla's door was triple-deadlocked - until half-time, anyway. Just ask Penrith's young five-eighth, Te Maire Martin, who played no further part after having his shoulder injured five minutes before half-time as an urgent Holmes left his wing to race up in defence and halt another attacking raid.

The Lewis tackle, against his old club, was instant promo material. The only problem for the Sharks was that despite the fact that Moylan inevitably spilled the ball it was the Panthers who retained it after a minor subsequent push and shove.

Surprise, surprise it was Michael Ennis, who had burrowed over to open the scoring at the other end after only two minutes, who was reprimanded by referee Grant Atkins.

The feisty No.9's crime was to charge in and "instigate" the minor altercation, according to Atkins. "But he's the hooker," Gallen protested, almost half-heartedly.

Fortunately for Gallen's men Cronulla's desperate defence spared Ennis further blushes.

The same couldn't be said of Sosaia Feki soon after the break as the Sharks' obstinacy was undone. Soward's bomb was smartly placed, between Barba and the winger, but a hesitant Feki made a mess of it and Moylan pounced.  

Less than 10 minutes later and Penrith had the lead as second-rower Isaah Yeo - deputising at right centre after Waqa Blake's first-half hip injury - slid over after running off Moylan.

When Fisher-Harris started and finished a scintillating right-field movement that featured, not for the first time on Sunday, a galloping Bryce Cartwright in open space the Sharks were suddenly right on the back foot.

Boos rang out throughout a charged-up crowd of 14,273 at Southern Cross Group Stadium. Fisher-Harris had dropped the ball initially in a tackle but the view from the bunker was that it travelled backwards. Gallen disagreed.

"He's go no control of the ball, he's dropped it straight down," he told Atkins. "He's getting tackled mate...he's got to have control of the ball. "

It wasn't long, however, before the boos turned to boisterous chants. Chad Townsend had been denied a try midway through the second half when ruled to be slightly in front of Bird's grubber but there was no argument when he burst through on the half-way line and found halves partner James Maloney on his inside.

That levelled the score, setting the scene for a frenetic final 15 minutes. Holmes' long-range four-pointer put them back in front but they still had to watch Soward try and even it up again. His conversion bid sailed wide of the right upright.