Gutsy Sharks score crucial win

It was a win they had to have, and while the Sharks left it late, in the final wash-up it was two tries inside the last 15 minutes which saw them come home over the top of the North Queensland Cowboys to score a crucial 16-14 victory. 

Dominant for large periods without having points to show for it, a number of classy touches from Shaun Johnson and an inspirational captains knock handed in by Paul Gallen has combined to get the Cronulla side over the line. 

Having dropped out of the top eight with their fifth consecutive loss last week in New Zealand, the win pushed the Sharks back level pegging, at least for now, with the eighth-placed Knights giving them everything to play for over the final six weeks. 

The poor starts that have plagued the Sharks throughout the 2019 season continued when a turnover on their first set gifted the Cowboys field position and shortly after Scott Drinkwater found space to touch down out wide. 

Jake Clifford couldn't convert but the visitors had an early 4-0 lead. 

The Sharks had an opportunity to level following a Shaun Johnson line break but Josh Morris was held up over the line and it appeared their efforts in the first half, a 40 minutes which they dominated, were to amount to nothing. 

Their persistence was finally rewarded when a Johnson cut out pass found the mark, with young winger Ronaldo Mulitalo diving over for his first NRL try just three minutes from the break. 

Johnson was unable to convert from the eastern touchline and the teams looked like going to half time locked at 4-all, until a Sharks error gifted the Cowboys one final set and four tackles later it was veteran Matt Scott crashing over from short range. 

Clifford missed the simple conversion but the North Queensland side had an 8-4 lead. 

The try before half time hurt the Sharks and another soon after the break didn't do them much good either, Jake Granville’s grubber kick was dived on for a try by Francis Molo and the with the Clifford conversion it was 14-4 to the Cowboys. 

The Sharks continued to grind away, turning the Cowboys back a handful of times on their own line and when they managed to get an opportunity at the other end of the field, it was some clever ball playing from Johnson which would put Josh Dugan over adjacent to the posts. 

Johnson converted, making the score 14-10 and the Sharks were back in the contest with 15 minutes to go. 

Now playing with vigour and enthusiasm with their season hanging by a thread, Johnson earned the Sharks a repeat set with a well-weighted kick and they were in again soon after, Bronson Xerri jinking to the inside before running through a yawning gap and diving over under the uprights. 

With Johnson adding the extras the Sharks had their first lead of the night at 16-14 in front with a touch over 10 minutes left on the clock. 

While there were a few anxious moments the Sharks controlled the final minutes and held on for what was a crucial win and an important two points. 

The Sharks had a number of outstanding performers on the night, none better than skipper Gallen who ran for 230-plus metres and made 37 tackles, Johnson was busy and constructive with the ball and defended strongly, while Dugan after a slow start found form and was also amongst his teams’ best. 

Youngster Mulitalo was again solid in what was just his third NRL game, while debutant Billy Magoulias did all that was asked of him in an enterprising 30-minute stint. 

On the injury front Briton Nikora was a slight problem with an ankle, with the remainder of tonight’s squad sporting the usual bumps and bruises but reporting no serious injury concerns. 

The Sharks will now look to regroup and to build on that performance when they host the Rabbitohs at PointsBet Stadium on Saturday night. 

 

SHARKS 16
Josh Dugan, Ronaldo Mulitalo, Bronson Xerri tries, Shaun Johnson 2 goals
beat
COWBOYS 14
Francis Molo, Matt Scott, Scott Drinkwater tries, Jake Clifford goal