The loss of Shaun Johnson in the 24-hours before the game failed to deter the Sharks, with his replacement Braydon Trindall in the thick of the action as the Cronulla side kept some breathing space between themselves and chasing pack with a convincing win over the Cowboys.
Trindall had a hand in three of the Sharks five tries, while kicking four goals from five attempts, as the Sharks turned a 10-point half time lead into a 28-12 victory.
While Trindall did the job asked of him by Sharks coach John Morris, his young halves partner Connor Tracey also played strongly, a late try capping a performance which will have both in the frame next week should either Johnson or Chad Townsend fail to prove their fitness.
The match was less than five minutes old when a dubious six again call went the way of the Cowboys and they immediately capitalised, Scott Drinkwater throwing a long cut-out pass for Kyle Feldt to score and the visitors were first on the board.
In his return match after six weeks on the sideline, former Shark Valentine Holmes kicked the conversion and six minutes into the contest the Cowboys led 6-0.
The early misfortune continued for the Cronulla team when an apparent Trindall try was called back for an obstruction in the lead up and soon after the young half back was denied again, this time the video referee ruling he had failed by just centimetres to win the race to a loose ball in the North Queensland in goal.
The Sharks however wouldn't have to wait long to post their first points and again it was Trindall in the game, a well-timed short ball putting Briton Nikora into a hole, with the back rower touching down 10 metres to the right of the uprights.
Assuming the goal kicking duties in the absence of Johnson, Trindall added the extras and it was 6-all 14 minutes into the contest.
Winning the yardage battle the Sharks moved back into an attacking position and it was the young halves Trindall and Tracey combining, before finding Will Kennedy, the fullback then floating a pass for Sione Katoa to score one of his spectacular trademark four-pointers, putting the home team ahead 10-6.
Now playing with confidence the Sharks went back on the attack and following a Blayke Brailey 40-20 would add to their advantage, a passing exchange seeing Aaron Woods tip on for front row partner Braden Hamlin-Uele and the home team were in again.
Trindall kicked the conversion from 10-metres in from touch and it was 16-6 to the Sharks 30 minutes into the match.
A worrying moment took place just moments from the half time break when Josh Dugan was twisted awkwardly in a tackle however while he returned for the second half his centre partner didn’t, Jesse Ramien failing to comeback onto the field after receiving a poke in the eye during the first period, with the versatile Siosifa Talakai shifting to right centre
That disruption to the Sharks backline didn't make too much difference, at least in the opening exchanges of the half, Brailey jumping out of dummy half, passing to Trindall who cleverly flicked the ball to his right to Nikora, with Talakai in support and crossing out wide.
On an eventful night for the 21-year-old, Trindall added the extra two and from a wide angle and it was 22-6 Sharks only three minutes into the half.
The Sharks had chances to put the game away in the next 15 minutes but couldn't get the ball cross the line, Ronaldo Mulitalo was brought down inches from scoring, Dugan had a try disallowed when he was offside from a Trindall kick, before a line ball pass was called back as that same man was sprinting away with a player in support and only the fullback to beat.
They finally managed to add to their tally, Kennedy splitting the defence then passing to Tracey who after a 20-metres run was tackled short before reaching out to score and when Trindall kicked his fourth goal of the night the result was beyond doubt at 28-6 to the Sharks.
With Dugan and skipper Wade Graham coming from the field the Sharks were somewhat disjointed in defence in the closing minutes, with the Cowboys taking advantage to score a consolation try, Holmes passing to Feldt for his second of the night.
In addition to Trindall and Tracey, Kennedy had plenty of good touches at the back, Katoa delivered a typically energetic performance, while the forwards led by Woods, Hamlin-Uele and Toby Rudolf got the better of the opposition forwards.
The Sharks would have been pleased with the five four-pointers, however in only conceding tries in the first and last five minutes of the match coach John Morris would have been more impressed with his team’s defensive effort.
It was a win which kept a four point gap between the Sharks and the chasing pack in the race for a top eight berth, setting up a blockbuster clash against the Newcastle Knights next Friday night.
5 mins - Feldt try, Holmes goal - Cowboys 6-0
13 mins - Nikora try, Trindall goal - 6-all
24 mins - Sione Katoa try - Sharks 10-6
30 mins - Hamlin-Uele try, Trindall goal - Sharks 16-6
43 mins - Talakai try, Trindall goal - Sharks 22-6
72 mins - Tracey try, Trindall goal - Sharks 28-6
78 mins - Feldt try, Holmes goal - Sharks 28-12
Briton Nikora, Sione Katoa, Braden Hamlin-Uele, Siosifa Talakai, Connor Tracey tries, Braydon Trindall 4 goals
Kyle Feldt 2 tries, Valentine Holmes 2 goals