North Queensland Cowboys started the NRL season with a hard earned victory over the Cronulla Sharks.
The Sharks took the lead after just nine minutes as Chad Townsend scored a penalty after the Cowboys were punished for being offside.
It took North Queensland a while to find their feet in the game, but they got their try with 25 minutes gone after Justin O’Neill managed to twist his way over the line. Jonathan Thurston was unsuccessful with the kick, but the Cowboys still had a two point lead.
Then just three minutes later, Coen Hess managed to open his account for 2018 by powering his way over to score. Thurston was successful with the kick to stretch the lead out to eight points.
Cronulla were then able to get their first try just before the break as Josh Dugan was the quickest to react to a Townsend kick for a try on his debut. Townsend scored the conversion to bring the Sharks back to within two points of the Cowboys.
But they couldn’t hang on until the break as Kyle Feldt showed great footwork to get over the line. Thurston pulled the kick wide on this occasion but the Cowboys still held a six point lead.
North Queensland set out to kill the game in the second half and Thurston added an early penalty to set them up to do that after the Sharks were punished for offside.
However, the Sharks were not done as James Segeyaro scored a fantastic breakaway try as he picked the ball up 30 metres out. Townsend scored the conversion to bring the game back within the Sharks’ reach.
But that hope soon disappeared as Gavin Cooper was able to crash over. Thurston was again off target but it wouldn’t matter as the Cowboys claimed victory.
The Cowboys defied a lot of the odds to reach the Grand Final last year, a year where star player Thurston was injured for a majority of. If he stays fit, there is no reason why they cannot go that far again. They travel to Brisbane Broncos next week in a repeat of the 2015 Grand Final.
As for the Sharks, they continue to grow after their 2016 Grand Final success. Their new team may take time to gel, but if and when they do, they remain a very dangerous opponent. They welcome the St George Illawara Dragons next week.