The North Queensland Cowboys started strongly and continued the roll throughout the 80-minutes of the contest in handing the Sharks a 39-0 hiding in their semi final match.
While the home team was outstanding, with Johnathan Thurston leading his troops around the field brilliantly, the Cowboys capitalized on a error-prone performance from the Sharks in running in seven tries on the night.
With a huge amount of possession the Cowboys had plenty of energy, running hard and tackling aggressively throughout the contest and if they can turn in a similar performance next weekend could be headed to their first premiership decider.
A penalty goal from Thurston opened the scoring and from the ensuing kick off the Cowboys went back on the attack when prop Matt Scott made a line break from the first hit up, bursting through some ordinary Sharks defense.
After managing to hold the Cowboys out for five tackles a repeat set put the home team on the front foot once again, with Michael Morgan slicing through to score untouched and notch the first four pointer of the night.
Thurston was off target with the attempt at goal but the Cowboys had jumped to a handy 6-0 advantage early.
The Sharks had a chance to respond but when Sosaia Feki was denied in the corner by some desperate Cowboys cover in the 12th minute, it would be the North Queenslanders who would double their lead shortly after.
With Wade Graham out of the line receiving attention, Morgan sensed an opportunity and it was his line break which resulted in a try to centre Justin O’Neill.
After the successful Thurston goal it was 12-0 to the Cowboys.
The Sharks worked their way back into the contest, going set for set with their opponents however they were unable to trouble the scoreboard attendant and after a penalty gifted the North Queensland side field position the Cowboys would go further in front when Scott Bolton scored what might be described as a soft try through the middle of the ruck.
Thurston kicked the easy conversion and it was 18-0 Cowboys with half time approaching.
That man Thurston was quite finished in the first 40 minutes however, a field goal from the man rated amongst the games’ best making it 19-0 at the break.
Unfortunately for the Sharks the second half began in a similar fashion to the first, with wave after wave of Cowboy attack directed at the Sharks line and it was Morgan again in the thick of the action, breaking a couple of tackles to score adjacent to the uprights.
Thurston made it 25-0 with the kick at goal and the Sharks obviously had a monumental task ahead of them, especially considering skipper Paul Gallen was still on the sidelines after limping from the field 10-minutes before half time.
Now with the momentum well and truly in their favour and the bounce of the ball going their way the Cowboys turned it on in the closing moments, tries to Antonio Winterstein off a kick, a try to winger Kyle Feldt after a freak Thurston pass and a final four-pointer to Ethan Lowe and at 39-0 it was a dismal scoreline for a Sharks side who didn’t deserve to go out in this manner.
As coach Shane Flanagan said after the game the effort was certainly there from his Sharks side, however handling errors and the execution let them down badly on the night against a red hot North Queensland outfit.
The Sharks will now look back at a season which had a lot of highlights but unfortunately ended on a sour note.
The Cowboys now move onto a Grand Final qualifier against the Melbourne Storm next Saturday night.
Michael Morgan 2, Justin O’Neil, Scott Bolton, Kyle Feldt, Antonio Winterstein, Ethan Lowe tries, Johnathan Thurston 5 goals, field goal
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