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The Cronulla Sharks have celebrated Paul Gallen's record-breaking game in style with a 42-16 win over the Cowboys in Townsville but the man of the hour only played 23 minutes due to a rib injury.

Gallen played a part in the Sharks' first try when he delivered the final pass for Chad Townsend to score but the veteran did not return after halftime.

In his absence the Sharks ran riot, scoring five tries in the opening 17 minutes of the second stanza to blow the Cowboys away.

It was a stark contrast to the first half when both sides had struggled to control the ball in the greasy and humid conditions.

Matt Moylan got off to a shaky start with two errors from two touches and that opened the door for the Cowboys to go on the attack but they were denied twice in the opening seven minutes.

Josh McGuire was ruled offside chasing a grubber and Jordan Kahu knocked on while climbing high to contest a bomb with Matt Moylan. The ball fell to Javid Bowen who scored in the corner but Kahu's mistake ruled it out.

The Sharks were up in Michael Morgan’s face early on, cutting down his time with the ball on a number of occasions and putting him under pressure.

The Sharks were able to pick up four repeat sets off the back of that pressure which led to a Chad Townsend try in the 15th minute through a set play from Andrew Fifita and Gallen.

Possession than started to swing in favour of the Cowboys courtesy of more Sharks mistakes and scores were level when Morgan put Jordan McLean in for a try with an inside pass.

Sharks score five tries in under 20 minutes

The Cowboys had the lead in the 37th minute when Te Maire Martin put in a grubber and it was spilt by Sosaia Feki.

Martin followed his own kick through and pounced on the loose ball to make it 10-6 to the Cowboys at the break.

The Sharks then turned the game on its head and the Cowboys simply had no answer to the flair of Shaun Johnson, who laid on tries for Briton Nikora and veteran centre Josh Morris with precision kicks.

Townsend also bagged his second, Josh Dugan powered his way across and Morris scored again as the score blew out to 36-10.

Up front, Fifita and Aaron Woods laid the platform for their playmakers and took a clear points decision over McGuire, McLean and Coen Hess.

The Cowboys eventually managed to halt the Sharks' momentum and grabbed a try through Gavin Cooper in the 65th minute off a deft Morgan pass.

Youngster Blayke Brailey then had a moment to savour when he found space out of dummy half to post his first career try in  the 79th minute.

The only sour notes for the Sharks were Gallen's rib cartilage injury and a hamstring problem for Moylan, who was forced off with 10 minutes to go.

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