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The Cronulla Sharks have withstood a late comeback from the North Queensland Cowboys to run out 28-22 winners at a cold and wet Toyoya Stadium tonight.
With a strong sourtherly at the backs in the first half, the Sharks were able to post a handy 18-4 lead at half time, but not before the Cowboys scored first through centre Ashley Graham and controlled field position for the opening 15 minutes.
The home side got into gear at the 20 minute mark with a try to front rower Ben Ross to make it 6-4.
Two more tries followed with fullback Brett Kearney diving on the ball following a clever cross-field kick from winger Luke Covell in the 23rd minute, and young forward Kade Snowden being rewarded following a barging 20-metre run in the 27th minute.
The Cowboys came out in the second half trailing by 14 points with a now stonger wind at their backs and rain falling. The Sharks however, extended their lead four minutes in, five eighth Brett Seymour scoring a freak try following a miraculous kick into the in-goal area by Covell stretching his leg out over the sideline.
A dour struggle followed for the next 20 minutes before Sharks hooker Terence Seu Seu seemingly put the match beyond doubt with a try in the 64th minute, the boot of Covell being involved in a try for a third time.
With the Cowboys trailing by 28-4 and their playmaker Johnathan Thurston forced from the field with a corked thigh, the match appeared to be won and lost.
But in an extraordinary turn of events, the Cowboys racked up three tries in five minutes to put the small but vocal crowd on the edge of their seats.
Tries to prop forwards Shane Tronc (71st minute) and Matt Scott (73rd minute) and another to winger Ty Williams (76th minute) put the home side on notice. A sideline conversion from winger John Williams - with the rain pelting down - set up 28-22 scoreline and possible golden point-extra time opportunity in a match where most players would be looking forward a hot shower.
But the Sharks were able to regain possession and hold on long enough to post a well deserved victory.
Mad Monday has come for the Cowboys but they will be sweating on the result of the Canberra Raiders v Canterbury Bulldogs clash tomorrow afternoon. The Bulldogs and Cowboys are on equal competition points at the bottom of the NRL ladder, but the Cowboys have better for-and-against differential. A Raiders win will see the Bulldogs stuck with the wooden spoon for 2008.
Match Details Cronulla Sharks 28 def North Queensland Cowboys 22 Round 26 - Saturday :: September 6th, 2008 7:30pm Venue: Toyota Stadium Referee: Ben Cummins Touch Judges: Paul Holland, Gavin Reynolds Video Referee: Russell Smith Half time: Sharks 18-4 Crowd: 7,057
Cronulla Sharks 28 Tries: Ben Ross, Brett Kearney, Kade Snowden, Brett Seymour, Terence Seu Seu Goals: Luke Covell (4/5) North Queensland Cowboys 22 Tries: Ashley Graham, Shane Tronc, Matthew Scott, Ty Williams Goals: Johnathan Thurston (0/1), John Williams (3/3)
LeagueUnlimited.com Player of the Match 3 Points: Luke Covell (Sharks) 2 Points: Kade Snowden (Sharks) 1 Point: Shane Tronc (Cowboys)
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary
TEAMS: SHARKS: 1. Brett Kearney 2. Misi Taulapapa 3. Ben Pomeroy 4. David Simmons 5. Luke Covell 6. Brett Seymour 7. Brett Kimmorley 8. Ben Ross 9. Isaac De Gois 10. Adam Peek 11. Luke Douglas 12. Fraser Anderson 13. Paul Gallen Interchange: 14. Danny Nutley 16. Kade Snowden 17. Terrence Seu Seu; 18. Bryan Norrie COWBOYS: 1. Mark Henry 2. Ty Williams 3. Ashley Graham 4. Ben Farrar 5. John Williams 6. Travis Burns 7. Johnathan Thurston (c) 8. Carl Webb 9. Aaron Payne 10. Shane Tronc 11. Luke O