Cowboys coach Paul Green says he can't knock the effort of his injury-ravaged side but lamented a second straight week in which they let a winning position slip in the final 15 minutes.
The Cowboys led 14-4 at Pointsbet Stadium on Thursday night before two Cronulla tries in the closing stages – contributed to by Cowboys errors – earned the Sharks a 16-14 win.
Already without a host of stars due to injury and with Coen Hess deputising in the centres, the Cowboys lost winger Kyle Feldt to a first-half concussion leaving back-rower Shane Wright also in the centres and marking up on Sharks speedster Bronson Xerri, who scored the go-ahead try late.
"I can't knock the effort but we need to be smarter there," Green said.
"We were in a position to win that game. Full credit to the Sharks, they upped the tempo when they needed to but felt we were in a position to win at 14-10."
For Cronulla to then go 100 metres in the set after getting within four points was the most disappointing thing, according to Green.
"Some guys are learning some tough errors but that's the NRL," he added.
Green refused to blame some clumsy errors inside their own end and even less so the injuries that have struck the backline in particular, crediting his side for repeatedly turning away attacking sets through the contest.
Makeshift centre pairing Hess and Wright did a fair job, as did Tom Opacic playing out of position on the wing after Feldt went off, according to Green.
Green expected the squad to be boosted by the return of skipper Michael Morgan to the halves next week after he was concussed in Origin III and hoped Feldt would be OK after his failed HIA but did not expect any of his other injured troops to return for round 20.