24 Sep 2016

Sharks into NRL grand final

5:45 am on 24 September 2016

The Cronulla Sharks have qualified for their first NRL grand final in 19 years by beating North Queensland 32-20 in their preliminary final at the Sydney Football Stadium.

James Maloney of the Cronulla Sharks.

James Maloney of the Cronulla Sharks. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

A couple of late consolation tries made the scoreline look far better for the Cowboys than they probably deserved.

The reigning premiers were uncharacteristically sloppy in attack and defence as a rampant Cronulla side barrelled over them to advance to the decider for the first time since the 1997 Super League season.

It will be the first time the Shire is represented in the last game of the year in a unified competition since the 1978 NSWRL grand final as the Sharks aim to win their first premiership since entering the league in 1967.

"I kind of dreamed of it when I announced my retirement, thinking how good it would be, [but] this is unbelievable," hooker Michael Ennis told the ABC.

With Cronulla coming into the game after a week off and North Queensland backing up from a brutal 90-minute bash-fest against Brisbane, concerns over how much the Cowboys had left in the tank looked well-founded early on Friday night.

Their night started in shocking fashion, with full-back Lachlan Coote continuing his nightmare ball-handling run, dripping the first kick that was sent his way.

Cronulla scored five tries to four.

They will meet the winners of tonight's game between Melbourne and Canberra in the grand final.