Jack Harbidge reviews the round 16 clash between the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks and the North Queensland Cowboys at Jubilee Stadium. Here’s how the game went.
|6th||Try Kyle Feldt (North Queensland)||North Queensland 4-0|
|7th||Goal Valentine Holmes (North Queensland)||North Queensland 6-0|
|13th||Try Briton Nikora (Cronulla-Sutherland)||North Queensland 6-4|
|14th||Goal Braydon Trindall (Cronulla-Sutherland)||Scores tied 6-6|
|24th||Try Sione Katoa (Cronulla-Sutherland)||Cronulla-Sutherland 10-6|
|28th||Try Brayden Hamiln-Uele (Cronulla-Sutherland)||Cronulla-Sutherland 14-6|
|29th||Goal Braydon Trindall (Cronulla-Sutherland)||Cronulla-Sutherland 16-6|
|42nd||Try Siosifa Talakai (Cronulla-Sutherland)||Cronulla-Sutherland 20-6|
|43rd||Goal Braydon Trindall (Cronulla-Sutherland)||Cronulla-Sutherland 22-6|
|69th||Try Connor Tracey (Cronulla-Sutherland)||Cronulla-Sutherland 26-6|
|70th||Goal Braydon Trindall (Cronulla-Sutherland)||Cronulla-Sutherland 28-6|
|77th||Try Kyle Feldt (North Queensland)||Cronulla-Sutherland 28-10|
|77th||Goal Valentine Homes (North Queensland)||Cronulla-Sutherland 28-12|
Cronulla were hit with a blow in the lead up to the game, with Shaun Johnson dropping out of the squad through injury, and Braydon Trindall coming into the vacant role, while the Cowboys were significantly without Jason Taumalolo. Despite their dominant middle missing, the Cowboys started the better of the two sides and capitalised on their domination of the opening exchanges with Kyle Feldt crossing for a try in the sixth minute.
Their dominance wouldn’t last long however, and the Sharks wrestled control off the Cowboys and consequently rolled up the field in their sets. After forcing an error from Valentine Holmes on the Cowboys’ line, Cronulla capitalised off the next set through Briton Nikora to level the scores.
The Cowboys looked to have regained their momentum just over halfway through the half and were pressing in the Sharks’ red zone before Connelly Lemuelu knocked on to release the pressure. After which Cronulla marched down the field and Sione Katoa flew over off the back of well-executed shape from the Sharks’ right edge. The try wasn’t the worst news for North Queensland though, with Michael Morgan limping off with a calf injury only later to be ruled out for the rest of the game.
Following the try, Cronulla backed up with good sets and, after making big metres, scored with Braden Hamlin-Uele going over off a short ball seemingly untouched to extend Cronulla’s lead to 10 after a Trindall conversion.
In stark contrast to the start of the first half, Cronulla came out firing from minute one and Siosifa Talakai strolled over off the back of fluid attacking football from the Sharks’ right edge. Now in complete control, Cronulla looked to have extended their lead soon after off the back of an exceptional kick chase and catch from Ronaldo Mulitalo, but the eventual try from Josh Dugan was scrubbed off for a preceding offside.
The two sides continued to trade sets, with errors curtailing any momentum being built by either side: most notably with North Queensland going close to cutting the deficit with just over 15 minutes to play, only for Connelly Lemuelu to lose the ball a metre from the Sharks’ line.
Following the 25-minute points drought, Nikora burst through some lazy inside defence from the Cowboys and put Connor Tracey through to get to the whitewash in the slightest of margins after some desperate North Queensland defence before the line. Trindall obliged with the ensuing conversion and the Sharks had extended their lead to 22 points with just 10 minutes to play.
The Cowboys came back into the game in the final 10 minutes but Lemuelu continued his unfortunately error-strewn performance and knocked on, under heavy contact, close to the Sharks’ line once more. From the ensuing scrum, Cronulla made an error of their own and North Queensland capitalised through Kyle Feldt down the right edge off the back of a central scrum. With the toughest of conversions, Holmes dissected the uprights and cut the deficit to a more respectable 16 points with the game all but over.
In the opening exchanges of the first half, the Cowboys looked to have the measure of the Sharks and were leading 6-0 with control over the game before the Sharks levelled it at 6-6. Despite the Sharks drawing level, the Cowboys still looked capable of taking hold of the game, but Sione Katoa’s try to put Cronulla in the lead was the hinge point in the momentum of the game. Alongside the supreme quality of the scoring play, Katoa’s try has to be the highlight of the game, with Cronulla going on to win comfortably.
The try itself was exceptionally well-worked, with Aaron Woods taking a settler to the left of the posts 15 metres out to set up an exceptionally slick shift to the right for Kennedy to produce a great cutout ball for Katoa to take flight and score in the right corner. Hopefully we’ll see plenty more like that from the Sharks in the weeks to come.
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks: 1. Will Kennedy 2. Sione Katoa 3. Josh Dugan 4. Jesse Ramien 5. Ronaldo Mulitalo 6. Connor Tracey 23. Braydon Trindall 8. Braden Hamlin-Uele 9. Blayke Brailey 10. Aaron Woods 11. Briton Nikora 12. Wade Graham 15. Scott Sorensen. Interchange: 13. Toby Rudolf 14. Siosifa Talakai 17. Royce Hunt 21. Andrew Fifita.
North Queensland Cowboys: 1. Scott Drinkwater 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Justin O’Neill 20. Connelly Lemuelu 5. Valentine Holmes 6. Daejarn Asi 7. Michael Morgan 8. Francis Molo 9. Reuben Cotter 10. Jordan McLean 11. Mitchell Dunn 12. Coen Hess 13. Josh McGuire. Interchange: 14. Jake Granville 15. John Asiata 16. Tom Gilbert 17. Corey Jensen.