14 Jun 2016

Sharks go 10 straight with win over Cowboys

7:02 am on 14 June 2016

The Cronulla Sharks have confirmed themselves as National Rugby League title contenders with a memorable 13-10 home win over the champion North Queensland Cowboys on Monday night.

The Sharks faithful have right to believe that a maiden Premiership is finally within reach following their 10th straight win, which left them only behind Melbourne Storm on top of the NRL ladder on percentage.

Sharks skipper Paul Gallen

Sharks skipper Paul Gallen Photo: Photosport

It was a tense clash played out in front of 13,119 fans at Shark Park.

And the New South Wales selectors will be sweating on the findings of the Match Review Committee (MRC) with James Tamou and Wade Graham both facing being rubbed out of next week's State of Origin II in Brisbane.

Tamou was penalised for a shoulder charge on Blues team-mate Andrew Fifita, who reacted by throwing the ball at the head of the Cowboys prop, while Graham, who was on Monday night named to replace Boyd Cordner, collared a falling Johnathan Thurston in a high tackle.

The Cowboys halfback was collared by Graham and fell back spectacularly, however referee Gerard Sutton only blew a penalty and didn't put the 25-year-old on report.

Graham played a blinder and harassed Thurston all night, the forward also coming up with a try-saver on Matt Scott.

Neither were put on report but will come under the microscope of the MRC.

Graham is the only change Blues coach Laurie Daley made for the state's must-win game in Brisbane on Wednesday week, replacing injured second-rower Boyd Cordner.

"I thought it was a grab. It wasn't a swinging arm and he didn't clock him. He grabbed his chin," Sharks and Blues skipper Paul Gallen said post-match.

Sharks forward Jason Bukuya was also put on report for a lifting tackle on Justin O'Neill.

On the back of a dodgy knock-on call against Ben Barba, the Cowboys evened it up at 10-10 with a penalty conversion with 14 minutes to go.

However Maloney potted the winning one-pointer in the 74th minute before sealing it with a penalty goal four minutes later.

The Sharks pack was simply more dominant and strangled the Cowboys of field position and possession in the second stanza to set up a potentially season-defining win.

Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan said while it set up the side's back half of the season well, he was focusing on the bigger picture and was spurring his troops to maintain their purple patch.

"I think beating any of those top teams, we get a certain satisfaction out of it and elation," Flanagan said.

"I thought it was a real tough game. The score reflects that. But just the way we played, I'm just really happy they stuck to it."

Elsewhere in Sydney on Monday night, the Canterbury Bulldogs beat the St George Illawarra Dragons 34-16.