Brave Sharks ‘golden’ loss
Although they came away without the points, the Sharks have produced their bravest performance of the season in pushing the Cowboys all the way to a golden point finish.
After the two teams were level at 19-all when the full time siren sounded, a 45-metre Daniel Holdsworth field goal leveling the score with less than 60-seconds on the clock, it was a Johnathan Thurston field goal in extra time that propelled the home team to a 20-19 victory.
It was a heartbreaking ending for a patched up Sharks outfit playing with 19 NRL squad members unavailable.
Written off as having no chance by numerous experts and rugby league analysts the Sharks made a mockery of the 30.5 start given to them on a number of betting markets.
In the opening exchanges however the pundits seemed on the mark when some weak goal line defense saw big back rower Jason Taumalolo cross adjacent to the uprights and after the Thurston conversion it was 6-0 to the Cowboys.
The Sharks didn’t let the poor beginning affect their attitude and it took just six minutes for them to respond, a clever play down the middle of the ruck seeing Michael Gordon dash clear before finding Pat Politoni in support with the hooker getting over for his first NRL try.
Gordon added the extras and the Sharks had evened the ledger at 6 points all.
The Cronulla side continued to pressure the North Queenslanders and a Siosia Feki try wide out, the winger making his opposite number look silly with some clever footwork to give the Sharks their first lead of the night.
Gordon was perfect with his sideline conversion and the Sharks were in front 12-6.
The Sharks defended grimly to hold the Cowboys at bay and it took some individual brilliance from Thurston to break the line, with the five eighth stepping through from close range to level the scores once again as the teams went to half time at 12-all.
Neither side was able to gain the upper hand in the first 15 or so minutes of the second stanza but it would be Cowboys who would retake the lead, Taumalolo winning the race to a Thurston kick and planting it down to the left of the posts.
Thurston took his team out to a six-point lead with the kick at goal but with over 20 minutes remaining the Sharks refused to roll over and kept pressing.
However it appeared all over when that man Thurston was again in the game, slotting over a field goal to make it 19-12 with time running out.
Again showing amazing resilience the Sharks didn’t quit and when Chris Heighington grabbed the ball after a short kick off they went on the attack.
Throwing plenty at the Cowboys a long pass found Feki on the fly, the blockbusting winger bowling over a number of would-be defenders to cross and give the Sharks a sniff. Gordon would convert and it was a one-point game once more.
The Sharks marched down the other end of the field and Holdsworth’s first field goal was a shaky one, missing short and wide, before the veteran five eighth slotted a one pointer with a perfect strike from 45 metres out to send the game into golden point.
With first use of the ball in extra time the Sharks couldn’t progress far enough down field to get another shot at a win and on the back of a barnstorming run from Taumalolo it was Thurston who iced it, his field goal coming from around 15 metres out and to the left of the uprights.
It was a devastating ending for a Sharks team fielding another debutant in Patrice Siolo and featuring a bench of four players with just three games of NRL experience between them.
For the Sharks Gordon was brilliant at the back and as a reward for his effort was presented with the Fox Sports Man of the Match. Despite being in the beaten side.
Not far behind him was Feki, the big winger putting a dent in the opposition defense every time he carried the ball, while Heighington had an outstanding game in the middle of the field for the Cronulla side.
The Sharks now travel to Leichhardt Oval to play the Tigers in their final game of the 2014 season. That game is scheduled for a 3.00pm kickoff on Saturday afternoon.
Siosia Feki 2, Pat Politoni tries. Michael Gordon 3 goals, Daniel Holdsworth field goal
Jason Taumalolo 2, Johnathan Thurston tries, Thurston 3 goals, 2 field goals
Minute by minute
2 mins – Cowboys 6-0 –
8 mins – 6-all – Politoni try, Gordon goal
22 mins - Sharks 12-6 – Feki try, Gordon goal
31 mins – 12-all – Thurston try, Thurston goal
58 mins – Cowboys 18-12 – Taumalolo try, Thurston goal
74 mins – Cowboys 19-12 – Thurston field goal
77 mins – Cowboys 19-18 – Feki try, Gordon goal
79 mins – 19-all – Holdsworth field goal
83 mins – Cowboys 20-19 – Thurston field goal