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The Cowboys progressed to their first preliminary final since 2017 with a 32-30 win over the Sharks in a golden point thriller at PointsBet Stadium on Saturday night.

Former Shark Valentine Holmes was the hero for the Cowboys with a 45-metre field goal in the 93rd minute after scores had been locked 30-30 at full-time and after 10 minutes of extra time.

With Jason Taumalolo at his damaging best the Cowboys earned themselves a week off while the Sharks face a sudden-death encounter against the winner of Sunday's Roosters-Rabbitohs game.

The Cowboys struck first in the eighth minute when Tom Gilbert flew high to pull down a Chad Townsend bomb and crash over under the posts.

It took the home side just three minutes to hit back through Toby Rudolf, who took the ball 10 metres out and left Taumalolo and Scott Drinkwater in his wake on his way to the line. Nicho Hynes' conversion made it 6-6.

Gilbert gets it down

A penalty against the Cowboys for a crusher tackle on Ronaldo Mulitalo handed Cronulla field position but Dale Finucane put the ball down in the next set and the visitors were off the hook.

Hynes came up with a low, hard dropout in the 22nd minute which Jeremiah Nanai was unable to control and the Sharks got possession but the Cowboys held firm when Kyle Feldt flew high to defuse a bomb.

Just two minutes later the Cowboys found themselves under the pump again and the combination of Matt Moylan and Hynes came to the fore to lay on a try for Siosifa Talakai to make it 12-6.

Dearden gets shot out of a cannon

Cowboys five-eighth Tom Dearden then produced a stunning long-range try in the 29th minute to level the scores before Peta Hiku finished off a stunning team try three minutes later to put Todd Payten's men ahead 18-12.

The shootout continued four minutes later when Moylan and Hynes combined again to put Mulitalo away down the left side and he found Will Kennedy backing up inside for the Sharks' third try.

The game developed into an arm wrestle in the opening exchanges of the second half as both sides completed at a high percentage before a charge down on a Hynes clearing kick gave the Cowboys the opportunity to take the front and they did just that through Murray Taulagi in the 53rd minute.

The Taulagi try was beautifully constructed by the Cowboys with Scott Drinkwater, Townsend, Dearden and Luciano Leilua handling before Valentine Holmes delivered a sublime final pass for the 23-year-old to cross wide out.

Sharks bench forward Cameron McInnes was next to hit the scoreboard when he ran a tough line from close range to level the scores at 22-22 and Hynes converted a two-point lead.

A mistake in the play-the-ball by Hiku in the 62nd minute looked to have proved costly as Hynes put Connor Tracey over in the corner but the try was disallowed for obstruction by Jesse Ramien in the lead-up.

Short-side raid benefits Kennedy

The home side stretched their lead to eight when Kennedy crossed in the 67th minute and mistakes started to creep into the Cowboys' game as they played catch-up but they received a lifeline in the 73rd minute when Tracey was sin binned for a professional foul and Holmes slotted the penalty to make it 30-24.

The Cowboys created a couple of opportunities down the right side but a kick by Kyle Feldt went dead and one by Hiku rolled into touch as the Sharks hung on.

A penalty against Moylan for ruck interference with 100 seconds to play gave the Cowboys one last shot and Taumalolo stormed over to make it 30-28 and Holmes converted to send the game to extra time.

Valentine Holmes you star

Feldt had the first chance to score in the second minute of extra time when he flew high to drag down a Townsend kick but couldn't control the ball.

Hynes had a shot at field goal charge down in the final seconds of the first period but it was charged down by Townsend and the teams swapped ends to continue the absorbing battle.

The game then went into golden point and it was there that Holmes stood tall with a monster two-point field goal to get his team home.

"We've always felt from early on this season that we show some character around the way that we compete and the message we've been trying to sell as coaches for well over 12 months, it became self-fulfilling in the early part of the season, the players believe it and they're the most important ones," Payten said post-match.

"I can tell them that we've got plenty of talent and plenty of character but they're the ones who have to believe it and we've proven it to ourselves time and time again and tonight is just another great example of that."

Match Snapshot

  • Sharks prop Toby Rudolf's try was just the third of his 65-game career.
  • Cowboys centre Peta Hiku came into the game averaging 149 metres per game and by half-time he already had 162 metres from 13 runs and finished the night with a staggering 314 metres.
  • Cowboys stars Chad Townsend and Val Holmes were part of Cronulla's drought-breaking premiership in 2016.
  • Andrew Fifita entered the fray in the 50th minute for his first taste of the action in his 250th career game.

Toby Rudolf the wrecking ball

  • Ronaldo Mulitalo racked up big metres for the Sharks with 276 metres to go with eight tackle breaks.
  • Blayke Brailey was a rock in defence for the Sharks with 68 tackles while Reuben Cotter made 62 for the Cowboys.
  • Nicho Hynes was all class with three try assists, four line break assists and 725 kick metres.
  • Connor Tracey was sin binned with eight minutes to play for a professional foul on Valentine Holmes on a kick chase.
  • Jason Taumalolo was enormous for the Cowboys with 253 metres from 20 runs and 41 tackles in 83 minutes of game time.

Taumalolo sends us to extra time

Plays of the Game

Nicho Hynes entered the finals series with 17 try assists for the season and he needed just 25 minutes to notch No.18 when he put Siosifa Talakai into a gaping hole to score the Sharks' second of the night. The try was beautifully constructed by Moylan and Hynes, with the five-eighth moving from the right side of the ruck to the left at speed to link with his halfback who delivered a majestic pass for Talakai to bag his seventh four-pointer of the season.

Hynes puts it on a platter for Talakai

Seven minutes after Hynes had worked his magic it was Cowboys wrecking ball Jason Taumalolo showing off his passing skills with a 30-metre bullet out to Peta Hiku who brushed off Ronaldo Mulitalo and raced away to finish off a great team try that had started on the opposite side of the field.

Hiku stuns the Sharks

What They Said

"I've seen Val do that a few times [nail a long field goal]. I saw him miss three in the warm-up but I've also seen him practice his goalkicking and if there's no one around watching him... he just likes the big moments and the big crowds which is great, it's what you need from your best players and he really stood up and made it count which was awesome. Val had a carry in that same set in our own half and he got up and said to the boys as he got up and played the ball and they were running off he said 'I'm taking a shot' and that's what happened and he was dialled in and he delivered." - Cowboys coach Todd Payten

Cowboys: Finals Week 1

“A mixture of pride and disappointment. It was a pretty decent game to play, both teams were up for it. What’s done is done now, we just have to wash it and move on. We earned a second crack so the disappointment is here right now but we’re on again next week so we just have to dust it off… the thing that probably disappoints us the most is we scored 30 points and the way we defended throughout the season we would probably get that done nine times out of 10 so we have a simple focus in front of us, we’re back to work tomorrow and get prepared for next week." - Sharks captain Wade Graham

Sharks: Finals Week 1

What's Next

The Cowboys are now just one win away from a grand final and will enjoy a week off before hosting a preliminary final in Townsville. The Sharks get a second bite of the cherry next Saturday against the winner of Sunday's Roosters-Rabbitohs clash.

Acknowledgement of Country

Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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