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It was yet another make-or-break match for the Cowboys when these two sides met just two weeks ago in Round 25 at Remondis Stadium – and North Queensland, led by Matt Bowen, kept their finals flame flickering with a determined 31-18 defeat of the Todd Carney-less Sharks.

It was 12-all at half-time in the fifth-against-eighth clash before a ‘ripe’ ‘Mango’ produced a few brilliant plays. Bowen ran for 127 metres, made three tackle-breaks, created two line-breaks, broke the line once himself, set up three tries and scored a four-pointer in a man-of-the-match display that ultimately proved the difference.

North Queensland’s forwards James Tamou (186 metres), Gavin Cooper (159 metres), Joel Riethmuller (167 metres) and Scott Bolton (149 metres) laid a firm foundation for Bowen to take advantage.

For the Sharks, Andrew Fifita (161 metres, four tackle-breaks and 39 tackles), Jeff Robson (two try assists, four tackle-breaks, 18 tackles, a line-break and a try) and Jayson Bukuya (two tries) were their strongest performers in a side missing key playmaker Carney, who injured his hamstring in the lead-up to the clash.