Sharks v Cowboys: Five key points
A couple of standout performances as the Sharks leave it late to beat a lacklustre Cowboys outfit 18-14 in the Beanie for Brain Cancer round.
Fifita books Origin spot
Andrew Fifita has all but assured he'll be wearing a sky blue NSW jumper in Origin I at Suncorp Stadium when Laurie Daley announces his side on Monday.
Despite Sharks skipper Paul Gallen admitting Fifita overplayed his hand too much in the first half, the 27-year-old turned the game back the defending premier's way when he broke through the line for Chad Townsend to go over and racked up over 175 metres in only 49 minutes on the paddock.
"That's what Andrew can do but we just have to get him to do it in first halves," Sharks coach Shane Flanagan said post-game.
"He started really well and showed sharp feet but his second stint was his best and we know that's what he can do.
"He changed the game for us."
Taumalolo confirms freak nature
While Fifita stood tall for the Sharks, there wasn't a better player on the park on Thursday night than Cowboys back-rower Jason Taumalolo.
The Kiwi international had another bumper performance with 219 metres in a 67-minute outing and broke through the line late in the game as the Cowboys were chasing points.
The 23-year-old has played only nine games in the NRL Telstra Premiership this season, but is still ranked third in most metres gained behind Paul Gallen (11 games) and injured Sea Eagles fullback Tom Trbojevic (10 games).
Sharks win ugly again
It was a much needed win in front of the Shire faithful for Cronulla, with all three of their losses this season coming on home turf.
In their last three outings the premiers have won by only six points or less with their form patchy to that of the side we've seen in the last 12 months.
It has been a common trend in the opening 11 rounds for Flanagan's side.
"They (Cowboys) were awful in the second half and we were awful in the first. It's just not us and we were disappointing with the way we finished sets," Flanagan said post-game.
"If I could wipe that first half memory out of my mind… the second half was really good.
"I thought we controlled the game [in the second] but just are lacking in putting two halves together but if you're still winning then that's okay."
Last tackle options hurt Cowboys
Taking the field without arguably the world's best player is always going to be a tough ask but after the Cowboys put Canterbury to the sword in Sydney in Round 10, at half-time it looked like another repeat performance.
However much like against the Bulldogs clash in the second half, North Queensland conceded a couple of tries but this time never went on with the job.
Cowboys coach Paul Green lamented the last-play options and said that was a key factor in the loss.
"There was a period there where they got their tails up and we were getting mugged down our end a little bit but we just failed to get a decent last play option on and relieve pressure," Green said.
"I think it was [a big enough lead at half-time] but when you transition the footy and your last plays are handing the ball on halfway all the time then 14 points is not enough.
"I thought we started the second half really well but that's what killed us.
"It's not just our kickers, we've all got a role in that."
Beanies a hit for Sharks/Cowboys
Pre-game scenes of both the Sharks and Cowboys running out in beanies to raise awareness for brain cancer was a very nice touch and only reflects how much of an impact rugby league can have on society.
It is the first time a round in the Telstra Premiership has been dedicated to the cause and already the NRL Footy Show has announced over $840,000 has been raised for the Mark Hughes Foundation.
To donate and for more details, including a range of auction items to bid on, head to markhughesfoundation.com.au