An almost identical situation faced these two sides in Round 17 last year as a Broncos side missing seven regulars through Origin injury faced a Cronulla outfit minus blues duo Paul Gallen and Todd Carney.
The Broncos were always going to be up against it in this one and that proved to be the case as Cronulla shot out of the blocks. The match was only five minutes old when Isaac De Gois instigated a short-side play and Wade Graham threw a well-timed short ball for Colin Best to score. Seven minutes later Graham scored one of his own after Broncos fullback Josh Hoffman was put off by the crossbar and a Chad Townsend bomb was swooped upon by the Sharks lock.
And Cronulla was keeping time with the clock when another Townsend bomb fell into the hands of Ben Pomeroy, who had too much strength for the cover defence as the visitors made it 16-0.
Brisbane recovered, however, with debutante Aaron Whitchurch scoring in the corner to close the gap to 10 at the break before Alex Glenn burrowed his way over early in the second half to make it 16-12.
But the play of the game came in the 55th minute as Brisbane looked certain to steal back the lead. Attacking to the right, Peter Wallace threw a long ball in search of his outside men but the pass was plucked out of the air by Sharks speedster Nathan Stapleton who raced 95 metres to score between the posts.
The Broncos didn’t come any closer to breaching Cronulla’s line and when Best scored an opportunistic try in the final minutes the Sharks had secured a 26-12 win.
Brisbane paid the price for 23 missed tackles and they also struggled with their long-kicking game, booting for just 414 metres to Cronulla 741.
Stapleton had a huge game for the Sharks, running for 295 metres from 18 runs while props Bryce Gibbs and Ben Ross made 144 and 142 metres respectively.
Andrew McCullough made a staggering 62 tackles for the home side.