Cronulla Sharks won a bizzare game 26-24 against the North Queensland Cowboys tonight in Townsville.
It wasn't a rugby league exhibition but the Sharks did enough after they extended their eight-point advantage at the break to lead by 14 with 15 minutes to go. The Cowboys siurged late with a pair of Kyle Feldt tries but suffer their first loss in Townsville since their Round 3 loss to Gold Coast.
The second half seemed to be played in slow motion. Experienced centre Will Chambers crossed to make it 26-12 in the 65th minute as the Sharks were sleep walking to a result but two high football iq plays from Kyle Feldt gave the Cowboys a late chance to steal the win.
Once again, the crackdown reared it's ugly head. Cowboys hooker Reece Robson was binned for a high tackle on a stooping Aiden Tolman which gave the Sharks enough room to work towards the full-time siren. Valentine Holmes tried a speculative two-point field goal but it fell short.
Both these sides were sat in seventh and nineth coming into this contest but the game was played like a late season dead rubber. Some of the options between the halves, some un-signed for 2022 were inexcusable and five straight sets saw the ball not kicked.
Cronulla Sharks showed the greater attacking bite, swimming out to a 12-nil lead. Utility Connor Tracey dived on a pinpoint Shaun Johnson kick then veteran prop Aaron Woods spun across from close range as the visitors looked to move into the top eight.
Being 12 points down shocked the Cowboys into action. Mid-season signing Tom Dearden sliced through to get the Cowboys on the board then interchange prop Francis Molo surged onto the ball to make it 14-12.
Sharks extended the lead back to eight just before the break. A wonderful scrum play saw Ronaldo Mulitalo go over untouched, making it 20-12. The Cowboys had won five straight at their home ground but were in stark danger of that streak being snapped tonight.
It went to dire straits in the 64th minute, Chambers dived over from close range to make it 26-14. Cronulla Sharks remained comfortable and rolled through their sets on the way to taking two points back on the plane back to Sydney.
Enter Feldt. The mercurial winger somehow got towards the line in the 73rd then found an inch of space on the shortside the next set to reduce the deficit to two points. The crowd in Townsville were in the contest but the sin bin of Robson extinguished the contest. Sharks held on and move into 7th.
After Origin II, the Cowboys will be away to Newcastle on the Saturday night, while Cronulla head north for a Sunday arvo showdown with Brisbane.