The Penrith Panthers extended its winning streak to nine after downing the Cronulla Sharks 20-10 in Penrith.

But the dominant Panthers, who have opened up a 10-point lead on top of the ladder as the team seeks back-to-back premierships

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The Sharks certainly did themselves no disservice in the result, taking it to the Panthers throughout the contest and only being put away by Jarome Luai’s 78th minute try.

But 10 minutes before full-time, Blues and Panthers centre Stephen Crichton was left dazed by a massive hit from Dale Finucane.

The Sharks forward raced out of the line and put the monster hit on Crichton and while his teammates slapped him on the back, the commentators weren’t so sure.

“Finucane has come flying in. They are patting him on the back, but I’m not sure about the technique,” Andrew Voss said on Fox League.

“It was round house stuff. There was no, I will hit him around the hips. It was nothing out of the Johnny Raper tackling manual.

“That is some moment.”

Former Sharks star Michael Ennis even thought Finucane was in trouble.

“Shoulder to the head,” Ennis said.

“He is just so tenacious Dale Finucane. He has got no respect for his body. He just launched at Crichton.

“I don’t think he knew where he wanted to hit him. He just wanted to hit him. He was trying to force an error.

“He is not a dirty player. There is no malice in that from Finucane, but it is contact with the head.”

But while Panthers fans were baying for blood, the bunker decided Finucane had no case to answer.

Klein told Panthers co-captain Nathan Cleary “we don’t believe it is leading with the head, it is just a tackle.”

Ennis reconsidered and believed it may have been a head clash.

But after the match, it was clear Crichton was missing a large chunk of his ear as he was immediately taken from the field for a head injury assessment.

Worrying post-match, Crichton, spoke to ABC Radio and said he was still coming to.

“Only just probably getting my senses back now, can’t really remember what happened as well, so yeah, starting to get my memory back now,” Crichton said.

Asked if he remembered the game at all, he said: “Nah, nah.”

Fans were quick to react to the incident.

Illawarra Mercury sports editor Tim Barrow wrote: “I don’t have a problem with it.”

NRL reporter Brad Walter responded: “It’s just a head clash but shows the danger of shooting out of the line. If Finucane’s shoulder was first point of contact he’d be looking at 6 weeks.”

In his post-match press conference, Cleary confirmed Crichton would be heading to hospital to see a plastic surgeon.

“He’s seen better days but he’s in good spirits from what he can remember,” Cleary said.

“Firstly, with Dale Finucane, the last thing he wanted to do was injure Critta. And I know historically a head clash has been a head clash but I just think that how easy it is to give away a high tackle penalty now, it just looked bad and Critta’s not in a great way.

“Certainly an argument for careless I would think but that’s currently the game and the interpretations.”

Penrith captain Isaah Yeo said he thought it looked “ugly”.

Cleary added he believe the Panthers would get the penalty.

“That’s clearly contact with the head, knocks him out, I don’t know if you’ve seen his ear, but that looks like a car crash,” Cleary said. “It’s weird that that’s okay but the mildest of taps sometimes is not okay.”

Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon said he didn’t believe Finucane had anything to worry about.

“He hit straight in the face with his head,” the Sharks coach said.

“His arm slung up after. It was a big head clash from what I saw, his arms did come up spectacularly after. But I though it was pretty flush contact with the head for me.”

Finucane told Fox League after the game he was just trying to inspire his troops.

“I think just at that point of time we needed points and a momentum change,” Finucane said.

“That was all just a last-ditch effort to change a bit of momentum. It wasn’t enough to change the result for us.”

With Curtis Woodward, NCA Newswire

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