Lachlan Jeffery reviews the extra time epic qualifying final between the Cowboys and the Sharks.
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 30
Tries: Will Kennedy 2 (35, 66), Toby Rudolf (10), Siosifa Talakai (24), Cameron McInnes (56)
Goals: Nicho Hynes 5 (12, 25, 36, 57, 67)
North Queensland Cowboys 32
Tries: Tom Gilbert (7), Tom Dearden (28), Peta Hiku (30), Murray Taulagi (52), Jason Taumalolo (80)
Goals: Valentine Holmes 5 (8, 29, 32, 72, 79)
Field Goals: Valentine Holmes (93)
MATCH REPORTEmbed from Getty Images
The North Queensland Cowboys are one win away from the 2022 NRL Grand Final after upsetting the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 32-30 in golden point in the second qualifying final at PointsBet Stadium.
Valentine Holmes turned the heartbreaker at his old home ground, kicking a 45-metre field goal in the 93rd minute of play to give the Cowboys a week off and put the Sharks into a sudden-death semi-final.
The Cowboys showed they weren’t going to be overawed early, driving Siosifa Talakai ten metres back before forcing an error from Jesse Ramien.
They went on to open the scoring in the eighth minute when Tom Gilbert flew above the pack to mark a Chad Townsend kick and touch down under the posts, with Tom Dearden’s contact on Nicho Hynes ruled inconsequential by the Bunker.
A pair of set restarts gave Cronulla their first chance to attack, with Toby Rudolf charging through four defenders to score in his return from injury.
The Sharks hit the lead in the 25th minute when Talakai scored out wide, however it was short lived as Dearden raced 60m from dummy half just three minutes later.
They made it back-to-back tries when Peta Hiku was put into space, racing 30 metres to score under the posts.
Five minutes before half-time it was the Sharks turn to entertain as a shift put Ronaldo Mulitalo into space, before he turned it inside to Will Kennedy to bring the scores level again.
A charge down from an attempted field goal by Hynes gave the Sharks a chance to score again on the siren, however Connor Tracey was unable to ground the ball off a second kick, leaving the teams locked 18-all at the break.
In contrast to the attack-heavy first half, the second began as a defensive slog with the Cowboys coming close off a kick in the 51st minute, only to be denied due to a bobble by Coen Hess.
In the following set, they shifted out to the left to Murray Taulagi to score in the corner.
The Sharks struck back and hit the lead five minutes later when Cam McInnes ran onto a short ball from Hynes, crashing over the line.
They thought they had extended their lead when Tracey crossed off a glorious cut-out pass by Hynes, only for the Bunker to overturn the try when it was ruled that Holmes had been obstructed.
A wild offload from Jason Taumalolo presented the Sharks with another opportunity and they took full advantage when Kennedy charged onto a pass and scored next to the posts.
Tracey was sent to the sin bin with eight minutes remaining for a professional foul on Holmes, giving the Cowboys centre a chance to cut the deficit to six.
A successful captain’s challenge gave the Cowboys attacking field position, before a knock down by the Sharks gave them a final set in the last minute, with Taumalolo crashing through and keeping his arm off the ground to score the equaliser with 20 seconds left, sending the game to extra time.
A Cronulla error in the opening set of extra time gave the Cowboys perfect field position, with an attacking kick from Townsend being knocked on in-goal by Kyle Feldt.
Another error by the Sharks put them under more pressure, however a big shot on Dearden saw them hold on.
In a case of déjà vu, Hynes attempted field goal just before half-time was charged down, leaving the scores locked at 30-all ahead of the final five minutes.
With 30 seconds left, Mulitalo was ruled to have knocked on, however it was overturned on review. Time ultimately ran out, sending the two teams to sudden-death golden point.
Finally, after 92 and a half minutes, Valentine Holmes stepped up from 45 metres out, nailing the field goal to take the win 32-30, giving the Cowboys a week off to prepare for a home preliminary final against the winner of Parramatta versus Canberra, while the Sharks prepare for the semi-final next Saturday against the winner of Roosters versus Souths.
PLAYER OF THE FINALS POINTSEmbed from Getty Images
3 pts – Jason Taumalolo (Cowboys), 2 pts – Nicho Hynes (Sharks), 1 pt – Tom Dearden (Cowboys)
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