The Cronulla Sharks have scored a 30 points to 18 win against the Cowboys at Remondis Stadium.
Having shot out to an 18 point lead early on in the second half, the Sharks managed to grind out a win against a relentless North Queensland Outfit who had brought the game back to within 6.
The Cronulla side were asked to defend their line early in the first half as the Cowboys pressed in attack, and having seen off the threat of Johnathan Thurston and co, the hosts regained possession and slowly worked their way into the contest.
The grinding, gritty style of play that the Sharks are renowned for playing was working a treat early on, and the Cowboys side that most-often plays a free-flowing game was brought into the Cronulla arm wrestle.
The hosts earned a penalty and opted to take the two, as Michael Gordon opened the night’s scoring and sent the side to the front.
Buoyed by points, albeit only from the Cowboys infringement, the Sharks would again work down field and crossed through Ricky Leutele in the 23rd minute. ‘Flash’ again made no mistake from the tee, and he took the score and the Sharks out to 8-0.
Full of running and backed by a 13,878-strong Remondis Stadium crowd, the Sharks extended their lead beyond two converted tries when five-eighth Jack Bird broke through.
The 20-year-old playmaker capitalised on the good work of the hard-hitting forwards, who had earned the side good field position in Cowboys territory. Gordon maintained his perfect night with the boot, in extending the hosts advantage to 14 from adjacent to the uprights.
Looking to press on in search of more points before the break, the Sharks earned two repeat seats and looked confident of taking the score to 20.
But unable to break the North Queensland defence for a third try, the sides returned to the sheds with the hosts 14 points to the good.
With messages coming out of the break to press on in search of more points, that’s exactly what the Sharks side did, when Michael Gordon scooped up a Cowboys kick to run 80 metres and score.
With weary legs after the long-range bust, Gordon couldn’t convert and the score stayed at 18 points to nil.
But as is the resilience of the team from Townsville, Thurston and his men went about making a game of it, and they opened their scoring through winger Antonio Winterstein.
Although often flawless with the boot, Thurston missed the chance to turn 4 into 6 from the touchline.
Building pressure and finding momentum not witnessed inside the first period, the Cowboys had a second try in quick succession when Kane Linnett beat the Sharks right-edge defenders.
JT made no mistakes second time around, taking the score to 18-10 with near on half an hour to play.
Thurston brought the game back to within a converted try from a penalty goal, and the visitors were looking likely to soon after tie the game at 18.
The Cowboys maestro was dictating terms as he so often does, and with the game on the line a cross-field bomb looking for Gavin Cooper went uncharacteristically astray.
The scrappy kick was pounced upon by Sharks centre Gerard Beale, and he saw plenty of open space to run 90 metres untouched. Gordon added the extras from in front, and the score went out to 24 points to 12.
With 16 minutes on the clock, Cooper went close to scoring the Cowboys’ third only to be held up by Jack Bird and his fellow right-edge defenders.
But not to be deterred by being turned away, the Cowboys would come again and would soon cross through Matthew Wright who cleaned up a Thurston chip. Thurston converted from out wide, and the game was brought back to a 6-point margin.
The visitors continued to search for points to tie the game, but having earned a penalty the Sharks found another set of six in the form of a drop out, and kept possession with two minutes to play.
Setting up for a field goal to ice the win, the Sharks were put under pressure but scored a four-pointer through vice captain Wade Graham.
Gordon slotted the goal from the left side of the sticks, and the Sharks rounded out a 30 points to 18 win in front of the Cronulla faithful.