TOWNSVILLE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 18: Reece Robson of the Cowboys celebrates after scoring a try during the round six NRL match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the Canterbury Bulldogs at QCB Stadium, on April 18, 2021, in Townsville, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

A thrilling qualifying final in the Shire has seen the North Queensland Cowboys book their passage directly to a home preliminary final with a high-scoring victory over the Cronulla Sharks.

The Sharks had appeared to have run away with the game during the second half, only for a Connor Tracey sin bin to peg them back before the bell.

It was then on to extra time, and with no score after ten minutes, golden point, with the Cowboys winning the contest through a Valentine Holmes field goal in the 93rd minute.

It was a high point-scoring first half of the fixture which set the tone, with both teams likely to question their defence ahead of their respective next games.

After an even start to the contest, it was a Toby Rudolf penalty which would tip the early balance in the direction of the Cowboys, with the visitors scoring through Tom Gilbert in the next set of six.

The Sharks took little time to hit back, with Rudolf himself busting the Cowboys' defence open for a try which left scores levelled after 12 minutes.

The game broke into a back and forth rhythm thereafter, although a penalty for a dangerous tackle against Kyle Feldt left the winger on report and likely with a nervous wait ahead of the Match Review Committe's findings on Sunday morning.

Siosifa Talakai would score the next points in the game, sparking a period which saw two tries for each team in a 14-minute window during the leag up to halftime, with Tom Dearden the next to score in a fantastic solo effort.

The Cowboys went back into the lead through Peta Hiku in the next set of six, before William Kennedy scored to bring the Sharks level at halftime, although a Nicho Hynes field goal attempt could have handed the black, white and blue the lead at halftime if it had not missed.

The second half started with far stronger defence from both sides, only Murray Taulagi able to break the deadlock 12 minutes into the half, although in a true game of back and forth, Cameron McInnes would break through to score just minutes later, this time putting the Sharks ahead as Hynes iced a conversion when Holmes couldn't from the sideline.

The Sharks threatened to break away again just minutes later when Connor Tracey crossed in the corner, only to be overruled by the NRL bunker who found an obstruction in the lead up.

Cronulla took over the game though in and around the denied try, with an attacking raid 13 minutes from fulltime seeing William Kennedy, returning from injury, find half a gap to then bounce out of a tackle and spin his way over for a try next to the posts.

The easy conversion for Hynes left the Sharks leading by eight points with just 12 minutes to play.

The Cowboys still had enough time on the clock, and would receive a piece of luck when Connor Tracey was ruled to have tackled Valentine Holmes without the ball after a Chad Townsend rubber.

No penalty try resulted from the decision, but Connor Tracey found himself in the sin bin for the final seven minutes of the game, and a Holmes penalty goal brought the margin back to six.

A Jason Taumalolo try in the final set of the game against 12 would be enough for the Cowboys to then take the game to extra time.

The Cowboys had the first scoring opportunity just seconds after the Sharks returned to 13 players, with a kick across field looking for Kyle Feldt, however, the Cowboys winger dropped the ball over the dead ball line, allowing Cronulla a seven-tackle set.

Errors littered the opening five minutes of extra time, before the Sharks finally got a field goal attempt just seconds from the siren, only for the shot from Hynes to be charged down.

The second lot of five minutes during extra time saw no score, and no real opportunities, so with both teams out on their feet, the game progressed beyond 90 minutes.

In the third minute of golden point, a 45-metre field goal from Valentine Holmes would ultimately seal the deal for the Cowboys.

The Sharks will now advance directly to the preliminary finals with a home game in a fortnight, while the Cowboys will face the winner of tomorrow's elimination final between the Sydney Roosters and South Sydney Rabbitohs at home in a sudden death semi-final next weekend.

Match summary

Cronulla Sharks 30 (Tries: Toby Rudolf, Siosifa Talakai, William Kennedy, Cameron McInnes, William Kennedy, Goals: Nicho Hynes 5/5, 1-point Field Goals: Nicho Hynes 0/2) defeated by North Queensland Cowboys 32 (Tries: Tom Gilbert, Tom Dearden, Peta Hiku, Murray Taulagi, Jason Taumalolo, Goals: Valentine Holmes 4/5, Penalty goals: Valentine Holmes 1/1, 2-point Field goals: Valentine Holmes 1/1)