Sharks Jump: Cronulla climbs the ladder with decisive win in North Queensland

Cronulla leapt over Melbourne and moved level with North Queensland after beating the Cowboys 26-16 at Queensland Country Bank Stadium.

They now sit second in the NRL ladder, behind only the Panthers, while trailing North Queensland on points difference.

It completes a perfect home spell for the Sharks, who have beaten two of the three teams above them in that span: after demolishing Melbourne last week and that win at Townsville, they now need to complete the set with a visit to Penrith next week.

Two first-half tries from Jesse Ramien started their night and offered a lead they would never relinquish, although North Queensland gave just as well as they came in late in the second half.

It could have been very different: the Cowboys thought they had taken the lead for the first time through Jason Taumalolo, but after the bunker ruled otherwise, Cronulla picked up the pace and pulled away further.

The Sharks had the advantage of only missing one Origin player, Siosifa Talakai nursing a shoulder complaint they suffered on Wednesday night, and their great cohesion finally showed.

The same could not be said for the hosts. They lacked the organizing ability of Tom Dearden, as well as the strike of Jeremiah Nanai and Tom Gilbert. If those three had backed off, it might well have gone the other way.

Statistically speaking, there was very little between the sides. Both teams finished well in the first half and terribly in the second, and while the Cowboys edged possession and field position, it was Cronulla who looked more consistent on offense.

Cronulla took control early in the game, dominating possession and field position, and could have been upset going into the break just two points off the mark.

The Sharks’ strong start began in what is quickly becoming a trademark: a quick switch to the wing, with Ramien giving up the pass to Sione Katoa to score himself.

The pressure continued, with the Cowboys barely able to get the ball, but Cronulla could not add to their lead.

When North Queensland took possession of the ball, they were threatening. Only a late diving tackle from Connor Tracey was able to stop Scott Drinkwater.

The line kept, the visitors struck again. It was Ramien for a second time, this one a twist on the line through the Cowboys defense that could have been a bit stronger.

The hosts then came to life. Luciano Leilua was increasingly prominent on the right edge and provided the quick pass that freed Kyle Feldt to get them on the board.

Cronulla added more points via a penalty goal but was punished for constantly slowing play with a binning for Blayke Brailey, who was the scapegoat after a string of infractions.

With time running out at halftime, the Cowboys took advantage of Chad Townsend, who grabbed the static defense and dispatched Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow for a simple score.

The momentum at the start of the second half was entirely with the Cowboys, even though they couldn’t get anything out of it. When a hole opened up for Connolly Lemuelu, he coughed the foot under little pressure.

They then passed, with Jason Taumalolo bustling through several tacklers, only for the bunker to clear the try for questionable obstruction.

Having come so close, the Cowboys then imploded. With Cronulla snaking through to the end of a set, Ben Hampton made a meal of a Hynes kick and presented Teig Wilson with the simplest of bashings.

Cronulla was leading by eight heading into the final quarter of an hour, but wasn’t helping either. Wilton made an error in the first set after the points and the Sharks were forced to scramble.

Hynes then kicked on the full and invited North Queensland back, only for more errors to come and give the invitees a reprieve.

The hammer blow would follow. Katoa took a seemingly benign hit in his own half, but isolated Drinkwater in the line and burst, going the length to put the game beyond doubt.

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