FW 3: Sharks v Cowboys (Highlights)
Highlights of the match between the Sharks and Cowboys from Allianz Stadium
Cronulla are just 80 minutes away from breaking one of Australian sport's most famous hoodoos following their ruthless 36-20 demolition of North Queensland on Friday night.
With the words "up, up Cronulla" echoing around Allianz Stadium, the Sharks moved into the NRL grand final with a resounding preliminary final win over the reigning premiers.
Shane Flanagan's blitzed their opposition in front of 36,717, most of them wearing black, white and blue, to put them within touching distance of claiming the club's first title in their 50-year existence.
Having reached the final game of the season in 1973, 1978 and the Super League decider in 1997, there will be no escaping the hype in The Shire this week as they get set to meet the winner of Saturday's clash between Canberra and Melbourne.
"It's excitement but I've been in this situation before," Flanagan said.
"Back then I was just an assistant coach (with Sydney Roosters) getting to a grand final. There's a big game next week and we're now,
"But I want to win it now."
Quite simply the Cowboys were blown off the park early, as fatigue set in as a result of last week's 90-minute epic against Brisbane, as their quest for back-to-back titles came to an end.
The Cowboys gave themselves a sniff of hope when fullback Lachlan Coote, who otherwise had a forgettable night and was again troubled under the high ball, crossed for a soft try four minutes after halftime to make it 14-6.
However, the Sharks picked themselves up off the canvas to keep the fairytale alive.
When Chad Townsend crossed to make it 14-0 at the break, the Sharks had completed twice as many sets as the Cowboys (16/20 to 8/12), run for twice as many metres (791 to 390), and been tackled in their opposition's red zone 23 times compared to North Queensland's eight.
Townsend bounced back from his shocker against Canberra a fortnight ago when he was hooked by coach Shane Flanagan, scoring one try, going close on another occasion and setting up another.
The Sharks twice managed to get over the line, through Andrew Fifita and Townsend, but were denied by the video referees before they finally converted their weight of possession into points via a James Maloney penalty goal in the 17th minute.
And when they found space on the left side, Sosaia Feki crossed in the corner before a botched Kyle Feldt dropout gifted Maloney another two points.
Townsend's 35th-minute four-pointer had big question marks on it, with the last pass from Maloney appearing to be forward, however referee Gerard Sutton was in line with the play.
Coote's try shortly after halftime seemingly sparked the Sharks back to life as they piled on three tries in 14 minutes via Luke Lewis and a Maloney double.
The Cowboys scored three tries in the final 10 minutes via a Feldt double and Cohen Hess but it was of little consolation.
"Fatigues would have played a part and we've had a big couple of weeks, coming off a 90-minute game last week and a trip to Sydney," Cowboys coach Paul Green said.
"That's not an excuse. We just needed to keep our composure better, particularly at the start of the game, we tried to force things that weren't there and put ourselves under pressure. We weren't able to play the game at the right end of the field."