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The North Queensland Cowboys have kept their slim finals hopes alive with an astonishing extra-time victory against the defending premiers Cronulla 15-14.
The phenomenal season of the injury ravaged Cowboys continues keeping on as they claimed the lead for the first time in their Elimination Final against the defending premiers Cronulla, in extra time through the boot of Michael Morgan.
The Sharks struck hard and fast, picking up a try inside the first 3 minutes when Winterstein fielded a kick before getting driven back in goal by the Sharks defence. Winterstein lost the ball and Townsend calmly grounded it for the Sharks to open the scoring. Maloney converted.
Ill-discipline from both sides made it hard for them to build any pressure. James Maloney kicked a penalty goal at the 18th minute mark to take the Sharks lead out to 8-0.
Both sides struggled to make key passes stick while continuing to give away penalties at crucial moments for the remainder of the second half. Just seconds before the break, Morgan grubbered into the Sharks in-goal. Lowe had his run impacted by Maloney which saw the Sharks five-eighth sent to the bin for 10 minutes.
Lowe kicked the penalty goal to finally get his side on the board. At halftime the Sharks lead, unconvincingly by 8-2.
The Cowboys struck first in the second half, taking advantage of their extra man to get Feldt outside Feki to score in the corner. Lowe was unable to convert, with the Sharks lead cut to just 2 points.
Just 7 minutes later though, the Sharks hit back when Townsend's well placed grubber bounced up perfectly for Jack Bird who reeled in the ball to score. Maloney converted to take the lead back out to 8 points, 14-6.
Taumalolo in one of the best matches of his career somehow managed to barge over and score despite a large number of Sharks defenders trying to stop him. Lowe converted and the Cowboys were back within 2 points.
With 3 minutes left on the clock, Matt Prior was penalised for an illegal strip deep inside the Sharks half. Lowe kicked the penalty to level the scores.
Maloney had his field goal attempt in the 78th minute charged down, however the Sharks retained possession. Gallen then made a bustling attempt to barge over but he lost the ball as he was getting to his feet. The Sharks then failed to set the scrum in time and were penalised right on full time. The Cowboys couldn't alter the score and at full time it was 14 all.
The first 5 minutes of extra time saw more ill-discipline by the Sharks. Lewis lost the ball after Taumalolo appeared to have played at it and shortly after Holmes made a great kick return before losing the ball when Coote's attempted tackle inadvertently knocked the ball loose. Morgan then kicked a field goal at the end of the first five minutes of extra time.
The second 5 minutes saw the Sharks constantly battling to get into good field position but failing to capitalise on their good early work and the Cowboys hung on for an astonishing and gritty victory.
Next Saturday the Cowboys are back in Sydney to face Parramatta at ANZ Stadium, while the Sharks are left to contemplate an unsuccessful title defence and head into 2018 with a new outlook.
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 14 - North Queensland Cowboys 15
Venue: Allianz Stadium
Halftime Score: Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 8 North Queensland Cowboys 2
LeagueUnlimited.com Players of the Match:
3 points - Jason Taumalolo
2 points - Michael Morgan
1 points - Wade Graham
CRONULLA-SUTHERLAND SHARKS (14)
Tries: Chad Townsend, Jack Bird
Conversions: James Maloney (2/2)
Penalty Goals: James Maloney (1/1)
NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS (15)
Tries: Kyle Feldt, Jason Taumalolo
Field Goals: Michael Morgan (1/1)
Conversions: Ethan Lowe (1/2)
Penalty Goals: Ethan Lowe (2/2)