Sharks head into 2016 Grand Final
The Cronulla Sharks have booked their place in the 2016 Grand Final with a 32-20 victory over the Cowboys.
Played in front of a vocal Cronulla Sharks crowd, it was the Sharks who would get proceedings underway handing the Cowboys first use of the ball.
From there though, it would be the Sharks who would hold the lion’s share of possession in the early stages of the first half.
After a jittery outing last week, Lachlan Coote looked to continue his wobbly was, dropping the first Chad Townsend bomb.
The mistake gave the Sharks good early field position and the home side would pepper the Cowboys line, forcing them into a host of early defensive work.
The Sharks were first to look to score when Andrew Fifita came close to the line only to be called back for a double movement.
Not to be deterred, the Sharks would continue to pressure the Cowboys defence with big early efforts from Paul Gallen, Andrew Fifita and Matt Prior in the middle of the field.
The Sharks again went to the NRL Bunker, when Coote attempted to let an Ennis grubber role dead however an alert Townsend looked to have pounced on the ball however came up short.
The pressure seemingly got to the Cowboys though as they gave away a penalty in the play the ball and James Maloney would take the shot at goal along with the score out to 2-0.
The Sharks again pressed the Cowboys line with Gallen, Fifita and Prior all continuing to make strong metres.
The Cowboys would be forced to drop out and experience another Sharks attacking raid.
The reigning Premiers were not able to hold on though with Sosaia Feki finishing off a weeping backline move to go over in the right corner.
Maloney was unable to add the extras and the scored remained 6-0.
In what would prove common in the first half, the Sharks pressed the Cowboys line again forcing the Cowboys to again look to Feldt’s boot for the drop out.
The hulking back rower though would kick the ball out on the full and the Sharks would take the penalty shot at goal. Maloney extended the Sharks lead to 8-0.
It would then be the Cowboys turn to mount pressure on the Sharks with Jonathan Thurston pulling the strings around the back of the ruck.
The pressure came to no avail though with the Sharks holding them out and regaining possession.
Working the ball through midfield, Maloney broke through the line and found his halves partner in Townsend tearing past him to go over next to the posts.
Maloney would add the extras and the score would be 14-0.
This would be the score when both teams re-entered the field.
After being awarded an early penalty in the second half, the Cowboys would open their account after Townsend was unable to hold a Thurston grubber and Coote picked up the ball to go over from close range.
Thurston added the extras and the score would be 14-6 after 43 minutes.
Both sides would continue to mount pressure against each other however it was the Cowboys who would crack first after a deft touch pass from Townsend found a hard-running Luke Lewis close to the line and the Sharks would lead 18-6.
Maloney would add the extras and the score would be 20-6.
From here, the Sharks had their tails up stampeding their way down the field and into good field position. James Maloney would be given the ball five metres out the try line and ‘show-and-go’ would see him fool the Cowboys defence and barge his way over to take the score out to 24-6.
He would convert his own try to take the score to 26-6.
From here, the Cowboys would commit a series of penalties, marching the Sharks up field and into quality field position.
The Cowboys third penalty of set committed by the Cowboys would see the Sharks point to the posts and Maloney extend the lead to 28-6.
The five-eight would elevate his standing in tonight’s match moments after the Cowboys regained their own short kick off, intercepting the Gavin Cooper pass to streak away 60m and score in the right corner.
Maloney would miss the conversion and the score would remain 32-6.
The Cowboys would score what would hit back with a try in the 69th minute when Kyle Feldt crashed over on the right wing.
Thurston was unable to add the extras and the score remained 32-10.
The Cowboys would make it two in succession when Feldt went over again in the right corner. Thurston would convert and the score would be 32-16 with four minutes remaining.
The Cowboys scored a final try for the night through Coen Hess on the right edge. Thurston was unable to convert and the score would remain 32-20 at the full time whistle.