Valentine Holmes slots golden-point field goal to sink the Sharks in an epic

The North Queensland Cowboys have advanced to a preliminary final after an incredible golden-point field goal from Valentine Holmes sunk the Sharks in an all-time classic.

The wild encounter ended 32-30 and will live long in the memory, as both sides produced some entertaining footy while seemingly eschewing their defensive principles which have served them so well all season.

“It was a fair contest that went for 90-odd minutes and there were some big performances from a lot of our guys,” winning coach Todd Payten said.

“I think Peta Hiku had 28 carries, Reuben [Cotter] made 62 tackles, Jase [Taumalolo] played a long time, Robbo [Reece Robson] didn’t come off and made a bucket-load of tackles as well- we were proud of the type of performance we got under duress.”

In the beginning of the epic tussle, Cronulla looked in for a tough night as they were repeatedly overpowered by the Cowboys who were ferocious both in the tackle and with their line speed.

The visitors impressive start capped when Tom Gilbert collected a bomb from Chad Townsend – who was returning to his old stomping ground – to score.

It took the Sharks 10 minutes to register a tackle inside North Queensland’s half. Yet when they did, Toby Rudolf charged over after steaming through four tackles.

Nicho Hynes, who finished with three try assists, then pulled off two major plays to solidify the Sharks’ control over proceedings.

Firstly, he found the sideline from a drop-out, before sweeping around the back to put on a set play which sent Siosifa Talakai over untouched. 

Tom Dearden hit back for the Cowboys when he accelerated out of the ruck, before burning past Will Kennedy to level the scores at 12-12.

The Cowboys then shocked Cronulla with another quickfire try, as Hiku profited from some terrible defence. The four-pointer notable for a 30m cut-out pass Taumalolo threw to his centre.

By now the pattern of the game had well and truly been established with the promise of an equally as enthralling shootout in the second stanza. The two sides didn’t disappoint, although the Cowboys did frustrate their coach.

“We played on the backfoot a fair bit and I don’t think we managed that second half very well at all,” he said.

“We made far too many errors coming out of our own end and they had all the energy and the running. But we just stuck at it and delivered when it mattered.”

In a wild period of footy, both sides took the lead only to be pegged back by the opposition.

Yet the Sharks appeared like they finally had the game in the bag when they took a commanding 10-point lead into the closing stages.

Taumalolo – who ran for over 250 metres while making 32 tackles – had other ideas though, with the barnstorming forward crashing over with just seconds left on the clock to force extra-time and get himself off the ‘nudie’ run, according to his coach.

“It didn’t surprise me because of the way we train,” Townsend revealed about the play that tied the scores up at 30-apiece.

“We train for scenarios like that. That play that Jase scored from, we’ve been training for that for the last three weeks, so it was the right time and the big fella came up with the big play.”

However, the biggest play of the match was reserved for Holmes who stepped up to slot a long-range field goal. His 45-metre effort sinking the home side and sending the Cowboys to within one game of a grand final.

“I’ve seen Val do that a few times, but I saw him miss three in the warm-up,” Payten laughed. 

“Val had a carry in our own half in that same set and he said to the boys as he got up to play the ball ‘I’m taking a shot’ and that’s what happened.

“It’s what you need from your best players and he really stood up and made it count.”

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