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2016 premiers Cronulla have kept 2015 premiers North Queensland scoreless in the second half to record an 18-14 win in the first game of the NRL's eleventh round at Southern Cross Group Stadium.
The 8,557-strong Shire faithful packed into the Woolooware venue buoyed by the hosts' win in last Friday night's local derby at Kogarah, and would've rated their chances highly when opposition captain Johnathan Thurston was ruled out an hour before kickoff.
Both sides trotted out donning MHF Beanies, as part of the Beanies for Brain Cancer Round, supporting the Mark Hughes Foundation. You can learn more here.
Once the action commenced on-field, it was the Cowboys who asserted dominance early. In fact, the visiting side got out to a 14-0 halftime lead on the back of a trio of tries, Antonio Winterstein and Ben Hampton each crossing before Kyle Feldt got in on the action right on the break to stun the home fans.
After being shut out in the first forty, Cronulla worked on righting the ship after the break, but in the first instance there was some conjecture over an incident involving James Maloney and Lachlan Coote.
Maloney shrugged off the criticism from an alleged dropping of the knees and flop, crossing for the Sharks' first at the 50 minute mark, his halves partner Chad Townsend following suit as the clock wound to an hour.
Suddenly (largely due to the Cowboys' poor goalkicking) the hosts were within two points and it was some touchline magic from Sosaia Feki that would push them past their opponents just over ten minutes from fulltime. Feki's corner-post heroics, coupled with Maloney's third conversion from as many attempts, gave the Sharks a four-point buffer they were able to defend through to the final siren.
With the commencement of bye rounds due to Origin duty looming from next week, the Cowboys are one of the first eight teams to receive a bye in Round 12, while the Sharks play the second of five consecutive games at Southern Cross Group Stadium when they host the Bulldogs next Saturday night.
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 18 - North Queensland Cowboys 14
Venue: Southern Cross Group Stadium
Halftime Score: Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 0 North Queensland Cowboys 14
LeagueUnlimited.com Players of the Match:
3 points - James Maloney
2 points - Luke Lewis
1 points - Kyle Feldt
CRONULLA-SUTHERLAND SHARKS (18)
Tries: James Maloney, Chad Townsend, Sosaia Feki
Conversions: James Maloney (3/3)
NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS (14)
Tries: Antonio Winterstein, Ben Hampton, Kyle Feldt
Conversions: Ethan Lowe (0/1), Kyle Feldt (1/2)
Penalty Goals: Ethan Lowe (0/1)