On a drama-filled night, where up to six players failed their first Covid-19 temperature test in the lead up to the game, a resilient Sharks side has come away with an important win against the Cowboys in Townsville.
The six Cronulla players managed to get onto the field and although the game wasn't an NRL classic, the 26-16 victory was the Sharks first of the year and a crucial one.
The win broke the Sharks duck for the 2020 season and should give them a shot of confidence going into a local derby clash against the Dragons next weekend.
The match began with the Sharks forced to absorb plenty of pressure early, but they defended their line, worked into the contest and the momentum shifted on the back of a couple of Cowboys errors.
Enjoying a better share of possession the Sharks would post first points, a scoot out of dummy half from hooker Blayke Brailey putting his team on the front foot, before Will Kennedy poked through and off-loaded for Jesse Ramien to open his teams account.
Shaun Johnson added the extras after earlier having hit the upright with a penalty goal attempt and the Sharks led 6-0 after 22 minutes.
The Cowboys would respond, a poor defensive read on the Sharks left seeing Kyle Feldt touch down and when Valentine Holmes converted from the sideline it was 6-all.
Undaunted the Sharks marched down into an attacking zone following another Cowboys mistake and they would retake the lead, this time Johnson’s perfectly weighted grubber was collected by Ronaldo Mulitalo with the young winger winning the race to score out wide.
Johnson was able to kick the goal to make it 12-6 Sharks with 10 minutes of the first half still to be played.
The Cronulla side would enjoy the better of the chances in the closing minutes of the half, with a second try to Mulitalo denied by the bunker, the video offical taking more than a dozen looks at the lead up play before ruling on obstruction against the Sharks and the score would remain unchanged at the break.
The second 40 began in the worst possible fashion for the Sharks and it didn't take long for the Cowboys to strike, a Scott Drinkwater kick bounced awkwardly for Kennedy and it was Justin O’Neil grabbing the ball and claiming the Cowboys second four-pointer of the night.
Holmes failed with his kick to level the scores and the Sharks clung to a 12-10 advantage.
Showing good resolve the Sharks replied and it was the combination of Ramien and Mulitalo, the centre throwing a one-handed pass for his wing partner who spectacularly planted the ball down centimetres from the corner post.
Johnson couldn't kick the goal from the sideline and the Sharks were up six at 16-10 with less than 10 minutes gone in the second half.
The Sharks would extend that lead shortly after and again it was Ramien in the game, the Cowboys coughing up the ball when they had a chance to score, Johnson picked it up, headed downfield before finding the burly centre in support, Ramien dashing away on a 60 metre run to notch his second try of the night.
This time Johnson threaded the simple kick through the posts and the Sharks had a nice cushion at 22-10.
In a see-sawing affair just when the Sharks looked to apply the finishing touches, a misplaced kick saw Feldt trap a Sione Katoa kick then out sprint the cover defence to score, the Cowboys try and Holmes conversion narrowing the margin to just six.
With the Cowboys their own worst enemies, the home team committing 20 errors on the night, a Mulitalo bat-back from a Johnson kick saw Nikora crash over, pushing the lead out to 10 and at 26-16 with 20 minutes left on the clock the Sharks had a match winning advantage.
While there were a few anxious moments in the final quarter of the contest the Sharks would hold on, recording a crucial victory to get their 2020 campaign underway.
For the Cronulla team there were none better than Ramien and Mulitalo on the right hand side, Kennedy at fullback was enterprising and the forwards did their job against a big and physical North Queensland pack.
The Sharks now have an eight day turnaround before taking on the St George Illawarra Dragons at Campbelltown Stadium next Sunday.
22 mins - Ramien try, Johnson goal - Sharks 6-0
26 mins - Feldt try, Holmes goal - 6-all
30 mins - Mulitalo try, Johnson goal - Sharks 12-6
42 mins - O’Neill try - Sharks 12-10
46 mins - Mulitalo try - Sharks 16-10
52 mins - Ramien try, Johnson goal - Sharks 22-10
56 mins - Feldt try, Holmes goal - Sharks 22-16
60 mins - Nikora try - Sharks 26-16
Jesse Ramien 2, Ronaldo Mulitalo 2, Briton Nikora tries, Shaun Johnson 2 goals
Kyle Feldt try, Valentine Holmes goal