Sunday 17 December 2017 / 05:24 PM

NRL THURSDAY: SHARKS RUN DOWN COWBOYS

SHARKS 18 d. COWBOYS 14 @ Southern Cross Group Stadium

The NRL’s comeback narrative continued as Round 11 got underway, with Cronulla overcoming a 14-0 halftime deficit to run down North Queensland in the Shire.

THE MATCH: After both teams had tries disallowed by the Bunker in the early stages, Antonio Winterstein put the Cowboys on the board first in the 12th minute. The Sharks absorbed a mountain of pressure on their own line, but they finally cracked again in the 33rd minute as Ben Hampton finished off a long break by Kyle Feldt to make it 10-0.

Feldt gave the visitors a commanding halftime advantage when he climbed to take a Michael Morgan cross-field kick and planted the ball in the corner despite the attention of opposing winger Sosaia Feki.

The Sharks finally troubled the scorers 11 minutes after the resumption, James Maloney carving through off a deft Chad Townsend pass. Townsend then put the hosts within striking distance, backing up a rampaging run and offload by Andrew Fifita to dot down in the 63rd minute.

The Cowboys were unable to gain any traction, and the premiers hit the front through Feki – who also scored last week’s match-winner when Cronulla downed St George Illawarra by an identical scoreline – tiptoed down the sideline to score in the corner with 11 minutes on the clock.

Any opportunities the Cowboys had came unstuck through handling errors, consigning them to their third loss in five games without skipper Johnathan Thurston.

THE MAN: Andrew Fifita led from the front with 175 metres from 16 carries, 29 tackles, three offloads, a line-break and a try-assist – the perfect primer for a State of Origin assault.

THE MOMENT: Fifita’s magnificent break and superb offload to set up Townsend’s try brought the Sharks back to within two points, and from there it felt inevitable the home side was going to finish over the top of the wilting Cowboys.

ORIGIN WATCH: Valentine Holmes landed a blow in the race for Queensland wing spots, running for 190 metres and setting up Feki’s match-winner with an excellent pass. Jack Bird ensured he remains a front-runner for a spot in the NSW 17 with 162 metres and 14 tackles in a busy game at centre that netted Nine’s man-of-the-match gong.

Justin O’Neill was solid enough for the Cowboys, but not enough to oust the likes of Gagai, Chambers and Holmes for a Maroons backline berth. Scott Bolton remains an outside chance for a Queensland debut after racking up 38 tackles and 152 metres in the front-row. Coen Hess probably needed to do more to ensure a Maroons’ debut, making 90 metres from 10 carries and 23 tackles in 49 minutes off the bench. Gavin Cooper had a modest 56 metres and 27 tackles in 80 minutes to put his hopes of retaining a place in the Queensland squad in doubt; Ethan Lowe was more impressive as a back-row starter, tallying 149 metres and 24 tackles.

[YouTube – Rugby League/Union]

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About the author

Will Evans

CBS’s Editor-in-Chief and lead rugby league, union and cricket writer, Will is a Christchurch-based freelancer, also writing for Big League and Rugby League Review magazines, and The New Daily website. Will has written four rugby league books.

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