The North Queensland Cowboys have progressed to the second week of the 2017 NRL Finals Series, defeating the Cronulla Sharks 15-14 at Allianz Stadium.
It was heartbreak for the defending Premiers, who were not able to find the success that brought the Club’s maiden premiership in 2016.
Played in front of a raucous crowd at Allianz Stadium, the Cronulla Sharks were very well supported with the Cronulla faithful turning out in numbers.
With the early ball in their hands, the Sharks converted pressure into points.
Chad Townsend kicked high to Antonio Winterstein’s wing, with Jack Bird and Luke Lewis meeting the winger with pace and strength to force the winger into making a mistake.
Winterstein attempted to ground the ball however lost it forward in the process. Townsend was on the spot to ground the ball and after going to the video referee, he had put his side ahead 4-0.
James Maloney converted the try to take the score to 6-0 after 3 minutes.
With both sides throwing everything at each other in the first half to soften the opposition up, a big play was needed.
Step up Jayden Brailey.
Scott Bolton came up with the ball of a Sharks kick and looked to be in space. Brailey come in to make the tackle before stripping the ball free. He was subsequently awarded a penalty after Bolton stayed in the tackle too long.
Maloney took the simple penalty and extended the Sharks’ lead to 8-0.
The Cowboys were pressuring the Sharks line right before the half time break however some solid defence kept the North Queensland side at bay.
The pressure would eventually tell though, as James Maloney was sent to the sinbin after taking out Ethan Lowe who was chasing through on a Michael Morgan grubber kick. Lowe took the penalty shot at goal and the score went to 8-2 at half time.
When the sides returned from the break, it was the Cowboys who would score first when Kyle Feldt finished off quick set of hands to cross over for his 13th try of the season.
With Maloney still off the field, the Cowboys knew they had the advantage on the Sharks’ left edge, so work the ball that way they did.
Micahel Morgan looked to have been tackled however managed to put a long ball out to Feldt, who crossed over in the corner.
Lowe’s conversion attempt was unsuccessful and the score remained 8-6 with 30 minutes to play.
The Sharks worked their way back down the Cowboys end of the field and looked dangerous with ball in hand. Heading down the right edge of the ground inside the Cowboys 10m, Chad Townsend put in a grubber kick for his outside backs and Jack Bird jumped on the loose ball to extend his side’s lead.
James Maloney made no mistake from the conversion attempt and the Sharks were ahead 14-6 in the 56th minute.
The Cowboys were not out of the contest though, with one of their main men in Jason Taumalolo stepping up to make the big play. Taking the ball close to the Sharks line, the Kiwi international managed to brush through an attempted tackle from Chris Heighington before carrying three Sharks defenders over the line to get the ball down.
The try went to the video referee and was found to be a clean try. Lowe’s conversion attempt was successful and the scores went into 14-12 with just under 20 minutes to play.
The tension began to rise at Allianz Stadium as the Sharks attempted to hold onto their slim lead, all while the Cowboys continued to pressure the Cronulla defence.
The pressure told eventually, when the Sharks were ruled to have stripped the ball and the Cowboys were awarded a penalty goal within kicking distance. Ethan Lowe successfully converted the attempt and the scroes were locked up at 14-all with three minutes left on the clock.
It was all action as the Sharks had their chance to kill off the game when the ball came to James Maloney who took an attempted field goal, only to have it charged down.
Neither side could break the deadlock and we were off to Extra Time.
The frantic nature of the game continued in Extra Time, where both sides moved the ball wide in the hope of finding that elusive point to win them the match.
The ball came to Michael Morgan, right on the stroke of half time and the Cowboys half was cool as you like, slotting home what would end up being the match-winning field goal.
For the remainder of the match, both sides threw the kitchen sink at each other however it was to no avail, as the Cowboys ran away with the victory and moved onto the second week of the 2017 NRL Finals Series
North Queensland Cowboys 15 – Tries: Feldt, Taumalolo. Goals: Lowe 2/3 (1 pen. 1 conv.), Morgan 1/1 (1 field goal)
Cronulla Sharks 14. Tries: Townsend, Bird. Goals: Maloney 3/3 (1 conv. 1 pen.)