A starring role from Nicho Hynes has proved the difference as Cronulla held on for a 26-12 victory against a North Queensland side missing their QLD Origin winners in Townsville tonight.
North Queensland was missing all their Queensland contingent with Tom Gilbert being the only Maroon to back up following Wednesday night, but still played a formidable line-up that stayed with Cronulla for most of the match. However, an ill-timed tackle on Ronaldo Mulitalo by Kyle Feldt set the visitors up with an early attacking opportunity and they didn't take long to execute when Matt Moylan executed a shift to the right and found try-scoring centre Jesse Ramien who continued his hot-streak to cross for the opening try of the evening.
North Queensland got themselves back into the game but as would be the case throughout the match, Cronulla would be more than happy to hold down and halt the momentum, but this would come back to bite later in the half. On the half-way mark of the opening half, Ramien burrowed his way to the line and despite Adam Gee ruling no-try, replays showed Ramien did enough to get the ball to the line and the Cowboys were looking shellshocked. Following a penalty inside their own end, the Cowboys hit back after a great catch and pass from Luciano Leilua who got it onto Peta Hiku who drew in Mulitalo and Kyle Feldt crossed for their first of the night.
A controversial late hit on Dale Finucane got the Sharks a further two points in front to lead by two possessions. Cronulla's dicing with the set restarts came back to bite when Adam Gee's patience ran out and Blayke Brailey was sin-binned, this proved costly when Chad Townsend found Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow and the Cowboys reduced the gap to two at half-time.
After a case of the dropsies went through Townsville, it appeared the Cowboys were going to take the lead when Jason Taumalolo broke through the middle and charged his way to the line. But, the bunker spoiled the fun when replays showed Reece Robson obstructed Braden Hamlin-Uele. Off the back of the penalty, a grubber from Moylan was spilt by Hampton and Teig Wilton crossed for the black, white and blue. Cronulla would seal a well-earnt win when Sione Katoa broke through a poor attempt of a tackle by Scott Drinkwater to sprint 60 meters to score, concerningly though he left the game with a shoulder injury and said he heard a pop in his shoulder.
North Queensland was far from disgraced, but they'll be better for the end-of-season games once the rest of their QLD contingent return following their rest period. Next up for the home side is a rare home Sunday afternoon match against Wests Tigers, while the Sharks take on Penrith in Penrith.