Cowboys cruelled by last-tackle options
Cowboys coach Paul Green has been left to rue the one that got away after his side squandered a 14-point half-time advantage to go down 18-14 to the Sharks as a result of some poor fifth-tackle options.
The kicking game that inspired them to victory last week against the Bulldogs looked to be on song in the first 40 minutes as five-eighth Michael Morgan landed a 40/20 and then picked out Kyle Feldt with a cross-field chip to make it 14-0 at the break.
Unfortunately for North Queensland, they couldn't maintain the rage in the second half, with the 2015 premiers clearly missing the composure of injured halfback Johnathan Thurston.
The signs weren't good when Lachlan Coote kicked out on the full, and his misdirected effort was followed by a couple of sets that ended on halfway with the ball carrier caught in possession by Cronulla's swarming defence.
The defining moment of the night came when Sharks veteran Luke Lewis smashed Coote on the last tackle before he was able to get his kick away, with the Sharks exploiting their field position to score the match winner through winger Sosaia Feki.
"There was a period there where they got their tails up and we were getting mugged down our end a little bit and we failed to get a good last-play option on to relieve a bit of pressure," Green said.
"How you give the opposition the ball is really important and we just put ourselves under too much pressure. We were in a position to win that game but we just put ourselves under too much pressure.
"It's not just our kickers, it's all of us. As a team, we've all got a role to play. We've got to recognise in a game what the team needs.
"If you've been under pressure and you get the footy, you really need to make sure that you get out of your end, and we just failed to do that tonight in that important period where they were coming to get us.
"I thought we defended bravely there, and all in all I was really proud of the effort that we showed, but our execution in that area in particular was disappointing. We could have stopped a couple of their tries, but we just put ourselves under too much pressure with how we transitioned the footy."
Edge forward Gavin Cooper was clearly disappointed with his side's inability to finish off their sets in the second half.
"We were camped in our end for a little bit and then we'd get to halfway and have a couple of kick options but we always managed to take the wrong one," he said.
"I think two times we were tackled with the ball on halfway and another time we kicked it out on the full.
"We've already spoken about it inside, but if you give a good team like Cronulla the ball around halfway, they're getting an attacking set near your line and I think they scored off two of those three sets."