NRL MATCH REPORT | Sharks v Cowboys
In a remarkable performance, played in hostile territory at 1300SMILES Stadium in Townsville, the Sharks have come from 18-0 down at half time to beat the North Queensland Cowboys and halt their 11-hame winning streak.
After a first half where errors, penalties and a clinical 40-minutes from the Cowboys saw the Sharks on the back foot, perseverance and a stern half time talk from Coach Shane Flanagan sent the team back onto the field with a level of belief and the players responded.
A try early in the second period set the tone and the Sharks would go on to register a memorable victory.
The match began with the Sharks dominating field position during the opening exchanges, but it would be the Cowboys to score first, hooker Jake Granville slicing through the middle of the ruck before sprinting 50-metres to score.
Taking over the goal-kicking duties in place of the injured Johnathan Thurston, Ethan Lowe added the extras from in front of the posts and the Cowboys led 6-0 after 14 minutes.
Back to back penalties against the Sharks allowed Lowe to kick his team to an eight-point lead and they would add to that advantage in the first set of six after the ensuing kickoff, Michael Morgan making a line break before passing to Justin O’Neil for the score.
Again Lowe was on target and the Cowboys had a handy 14-point lead less than 20 minutes into the contest.
With the momentum in their favour a Sharks error, followed by a Cowboys penalty gifted the Cowboys field position and again they made their opponents pay, this time their left hand side attack producing a try to Antonio Winterstein.
Lowe’s conversion attempt was wide but at 18-0 the Cowboys were well and truly on the front foot.
The Sharks did manage to get themselves back into the arm wrestle for the remainder of the period but the Cowboy defense held firm and the Cronulla tam had it all to do over the next 40 minutes.
The second half began well for the Sharks when on the back of three straight penalties they attacked the Cowboy line, with Luke Lewis crashing over from close range.
Michael Gordon kicked the simple penalty goal and the Sharks had given themselves a glimmer of hope at 18-6 down.
And if the first try instilled some confidence the second certainly put them on a high, with Michael Ennis delivering a perfect cut out pass for Sam Tagataese to dive over.
The try, the first for Tagataese in 2015 made it 18-10, the successful Gordon kick bringing the Sharks within six at 18-12 with still plenty of time left on the clock.
A Ben Barba line break looked likely to narrow the margin even further when he found Wade Graham in support, only for the Sharks skipper to be brought down inches from the try line.
Their near miss however didn’t deter them, with a slashing 80-metre run from Valentine Holmes putting the Sharks in an attacking field position and it was Andrew Fifita who did the rest, the big front rower running over a couple of would-be tackler to score his teams third try of the night.
From close range Gordon goaled and it was all locked up at 18-all with 16 minutes of the match remaining.
With ill-discipline now costing the Cowboys a penalty piggy-backed the Sharks back down the field and when Ricky Leutele dived on a rolling ball in the in-goal, the Sharks had their first lead of the night.
From 20-metres to the right of the posts Gordon kicked the conversion and the Sharks were on top 24-18.
With lessons learned from close losses earlier in the year the Sharks managed to shut the game down and secure the win, the victory moving them to within striking distance of the top eight.
For the Sharks Ennis was outstanding at hooker and both Fifita brothers strong in the middle of the field, while Barba injected his special brand of attacking excitement into the match late in helping to spark the win.
The Sharks now have an eight-day break before taking on the Manly Sea Eagles at Brookvale Oval next Sunday.
Luke Lewis, Sam Tagataese, Andrew FIfita, Ricky Leutele tries, Michael Gordon 4 goals
Jake Granville, Justin O’Neil, Antonio Winterstein tries, Ethan Lowe 3 goals
When they scored
13 mins – Cowboys 6-0 – Granville try, Lowe goal
17 mins – Cowboys 8-0 – Lowe goal
18 mins – Cowboys 14-0 – O’Neil try, Lowe goal
26 mins – Cowboys 18-0 – Winterstein try
43 mins – Cowboys 18-6 – Lewis try, Gordon goal
50 mins – Cowboys 18-12 – Tagataese try, Gordon goal
63 mins – 18-all
67mins – Sharks 24-18 – Leutele try, Gordon goal