Sharks defy bio drama to ruin Valentine’s day
Cronulla had the last laugh over Valentine Holmes after the Sharks overcame a temperature-check drama to sink the Cowboys 26-16 in Townsville.
The Sharks took a bite out of North Queensland's NRL title credentials and recorded their first win of the season in an end-to-end contest at Queensland Country Bank Stadium.
Holmes had little impact in his first match against the club he walked out on in 2018 to pursue a career in the NFL.
After blitzing the Titans last week, Holmes registered only 101m, no line breaks, made three errors and failed to create a try as the Sharks got revenge on the Queensland Origin star following his controversial exit from The Shire.
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But the Sharks were nearly plunged into crisis an hour before kick-off when at least five players failed their initial temperature checks and were only cleared on the second attempt.
Sharks captain Wade Graham joked Cronulla may have been a victim of sabotage.
"When we got here, it was an hour before we had to go into the sheds," Graham told Fox League.
"We got put up in this top room and it might have been a bit of a stitch up by the Cowboys staff putting up the heater.
"I certainly felt a little bit hot as I was walking down the stairs to come into the sheds.
"Luckily we got all of our boys on deck and were able to run out."
The Cowboys thrashed the Titans a week ago but lacked punch without their chief destroyer Jason Taumalolo (knee) while Coen Hess (ankle) was a late withdrawal and John Asiata suffered a knee injury in the first half.
Despite making 17 errors and completing at only 60 per cent, the Cowboys had 53 per cent possession but still struggled to crack Cronulla's defence.
In the absence of Taumalolo, middle forwards Josh McGuire (169m) and Frank Molo (145m) were shining lights for the error-riddled Cowboys.
"There were a lot of really good efforts there," Cowboys coach Paul Green said.
"There were a few challenges and I can't fault their effort.
"But it was frustrating. If we could have got our game on a bit more consistently I felt like we would have given ourselves a chance to win.
"We played some good footy. We've got to take our lessons out of it all."
It was Cronulla's right edge that did the damage for the Sharks with young guns Jesse Ramien and Ronaldo Mulitalo terrorising the Cowboys all night.
In only his 12th NRL game, Mulitalo proved he is a genuine Queensland Origin bolter with a two-try haul while Ramien also bagged a double to upstage the Cowboys.
The Sharks got on the board first through Ramien but it was some poor Cronulla defence which allowed Cowboys winger Kyle Feldt to level scores after 26 minutes.
The visitors went into the break with a 12-6 lead after Mulitalo pounced on a deft kick from Shaun Johnson.
Mulitalo was caught napping early in the second half, allowing a determined Justin O'Neill to score, but atoned with a sensational finish to give the Sharks a 16-10 buffer.
When Ramien punished the Cowboys with a 95m effort in the 53rd minute, the Sharks looked home. But Cronulla let the Cowboys back into the contest almost immediately with an error allowing Feldt to bag his second.
Mulitalo was in the thick of the action again, soaring over rival winger Ben Hampton to put Briton Nikora over for the matchwinner.
The Cowboys will get a chance to bounce back when they face the battling Warriors on the Central Coast next Friday.
CRONULLA 26 (R Mulitalo 2 J Ramien 2 B Nikora tries S Johnson 3 goals) bt NORTH QUEENSLAND 16 (K Feldt 2 J O'Neill tries V Holmes 2 goals) at Queensland Country Bank Stadium. Referee: Chris Sutton.
Originally published as Sharks defy bio drama to ruin Valentine's day