2023 NRL Round 9: Sharks 44, Cowboys 6

The Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks continue hunting the top four after thrashing the North Queensland Cowboys in a dominant display on a Thursday night where Paul Green was honoured.


Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 44
Tries: (7) Ronaldo Mulitalo 43rd, 58th; Siosifa Talakai 3rd; Jesse Ramien 13th; Sione Katoa 28th; Nicho Hynes 62nd; Teig Wilton 74th
Goals: (8) Nicho Hynes 4th, 10th, 14th, 29th, 47th pen, 59th, 63rd, 75th

North Queensland Cowboys 6
Tries: (1) Kyle Feldt 33rd
(1) Valentine Holmes 34th

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It didn’t take long for the home side to establish dominance, producing a powerful first set of the match, forcing an error out of the Cowboys’ first attacking set, then scoring a few plays later – a roving Nicho Hynes on the left found the freight train that is Siosifa Talakai and the Sharks had a 6-0 lead after just four minutes.

The dominance continued as the Sharks gave absolutely nothing to the Cowboys. A penalty brought two more points in the 10th minute, then three minutes later came their second try as Briton Nikora laid on a perfect grubber near the try-line for Jesse Ramien. The Sharks’ lead was 14-0 and almost extended straight away courtesy of a runaway Ronaldo Mulitalo, but Nicho Hynes made a rare error in support.

The game calmed down and the Cowboys slowly got themselves into the match, but the Sharks were the next to score in the 28th minute as Sione Katoa powered to the line and through some Cowboys defenders close to the line, fuelled by the lead-up work of Hynes and William Kennedy.

North Queensland hit back a few minutes later for their first try of the game, through a Tom Dearden line break, which was finished by Kyle Feldt using his power and a huge fend on Mulitalo to score. Valentine Holmes converted to reduce the gap to 14 points at 20-6 – which doubled as the half-time score.

New half, same story as Mulitalo completed the set of Sharks three-quarters scoring with a try in the corner with a strong charge to the line being set up by slick ball movement from the Cronulla spine and Talakai. A Jack Williams line break almost brought more points straight away, but a subsequent tackle on Williams led to a penalty which Hynes converted for a 26-6 lead.

A moment of madness from Coen Hess in the 54th minute, as he stuck a leg out in defence with a move that would have earned himself a yellow card in the Premier League. It cost him the NRL equivalent with a 10-minute sin bin stint. As if the Cowboys needed a further handicap.

North Queensland held off the Sharks for a while, but consecutive repeat sets saw them eventually crack, and it went through the left edge again, with Mulitalo doing the scoring after a super tap-on from Talakai. Hynes converted from the sideline for a 32-6 lead. The next set saw the Sharks halfback help himself to a try in the same corner, as his relatively harmless last tackle kick was dropped cold under very little pressure by Cowboys fullback Scott Drinkwater and Hynes picked up the crumbs to score.

With seven minutes to go North Queensland had their second player sent to the sin bin for the night, when Jeremiah Nanai earned a rest for a hip drop on Sharks forward Braden Hamlin-Uele, who looked hurt and angry after the contact. Within minutes Cronulla’s lead extended to 44-6 through a Teig Wilton try and 50 points was calling. But the half century didn’t come, and Cronulla ran out 44-6 winners.

Cronulla were outstanding on Thursday night, their defence putting North Queensland under pressure all night, and their attack was sublime and took advantage when the chances arose. It was a real team performance from Cronulla and the Sharks are looking just as good as 2022 where they surprised most to finish second in the regular season. A sour note was an injury to Briton Nikora, who limped from the field with 10 minutes to go.

2022’s other surprise was the Cowboys, but they look nowhere near a top four or eight side this season, with a 3-6 start after nine games – some of their performances make 2023 look more like a season without finals in Townsville. They also look set to lose James Chester to injury and Nanai to suspension.


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3 – Siosifa Talakai (Sharks)
2 – Nicho Hynes (Sharks)
1 – William Kennedy (Sharks)

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