The Brisbane Broncos turned in their bravest performance of the season to hang on and beat Cronulla 12-10 in a display that has given them a real crack at a top-four finish on the Telstra Premiership ladder.
Brisbane's grit under immense pressure on their try line saw them turn away three sets of six in the final minutes as the Sharks threw the kitchen sink at them.
Both sides made crucial errors - the Broncos recording 12 and the Sharks 10 - but Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett will be most pleased that his men were able to defend their mistakes as they moved into sixth position on the NRL table, leap-frogging Penrith who play Manly on Saturday.
The Broncos were down a man after Alex Glenn left the field in 35th minute with an injured hand. Scans later in hospital showed no fracture.
Andrew McCullough and Josh McGuire both made 50 tackles in a match where Broncos winger Corey Oates and prop Matt Lodge shone.
This was not a game that ebbed and flowed but it was one that had the crowd of 22,859 on the edge of their seats due to its closeness.
Match: Broncos v Sharks
Round 20 -
Venue: Suncorp Stadium
- Nine Network
- LIVE PASS
The tries went tit-for-tat in a first half that was physical but failed to flow due to errors and penalties.
In the 14th minute a Matt Moylan pass meant for Chad Townsend was snaffled by Darius Boyd who raced down field before linking with a flying Corey Oates, and it was shut the gate in an 80-metre move.
The Sharks hit back with a try that epitomised their offloading ability with the ball going through 11 sets of hands before Valentine Holmes scored his 16th try of the season.
Broncos prop Matt Lodge did a hit and spin on Andrew Fifita and Aaron Woods after a set piece close to the line and with his brute strength enabling him to barge over for just the second try of his career in the 22nd minute to give his side a 10-6 lead.
The Sharks threatened to take the lead before the break when Ricky Leutele put the ball on Jamayne Isaako's right boot as Jordan Kahu rolled the Sharks centre over when he appeared certain to score.
The on-field decision was a try but the Referees Bunker correctly over-ruled in what turned into a key moment in the game decided by just a penalty goal.
The second half started in the best possible way for the Sharks with dangerous hooker James Segeyaro darting out of dummy half and who else but Holmes was hand to score and become the leading try scorer of the year in the NRL, with 17.
A Jordan Kahu penalty in the 48th minute gave Brisbane a 12-10 lead and the match then became an arm wrestle with both sides displaying enormous courage and desire on their try lines.
News & Notes: The Broncos have won five of their past six games against the Sharks… Matt Prior played his 100th NRL game for Cronulla… Andrew Fifita left the field in the 25th minute with an upset stomach but returned to the bench just before half-time...Valentine Holmes scored the 12th double of his career and the fourth for the season...Next week the Broncos are away to the Bulldogs while the Sharks host the Sea Eagles. Crowd: 22,859