Struggling Cowboys watch season slip away
North Queensland's season is all but over after going down to Cronulla 16-14 in a gritty match at Shark Park on Thursday night.
For the second week in a row, the Cowboys let slip a second-half lead to allow their opposition to come from behind in the final minutes.
It will now take a monumental run home for the Cowboys to secure a finals berth.
They will require six wins from their next six games after falling to 13th spot on Thursday night.
And life doesn't get any easier for the Cowboys, who face the Broncos, Penrith and Storm in the next six weeks.
The Cowboys just couldn't shake their Shark Park hoodoo in front of 6144 fans on Thursday night, having not won a game in the Shire since 2014.
And they definitely had their chances, leading 14-4 with 15 minutes to go.
Ill-discipline and missed conversions cost them as they allowed the Sharks to score two tries in the final 15 minutes.
Cronulla made it difficult for themselves, coughing up the ball on 11 occasions and giving away six penalties.
Both sides scored three tries each but Jake Clifford's poor goal kicking, including a missed shot almost right in front of the posts nearing halftime, proved costly.
Coach Paul Green said his side was learning some tough lessons.
"The NRL's a tough competition," Green said.
"We just need to take our lessons and at the moment, we're just not learning those lessons.
"Last week (against Souths) we were in a winning position but didn't close it out and it was probably the case tonight.
"We just need to be a little bit smarter there."
The Cowboys will need to address their final-quarter performances after suffering their 11th loss of the season.
Mathematically, the Cowboys can still make the finals but when you start using the term "mathematically", you know you're in trouble.
They must win every single game from here on out to have any hope of securing a finals berth. .
Cowboys fullback Scott Drinkwater opened the scoring in just the fourth minute when he sliced straight through the defence.
Young Queensland talent and Cronulla winger Ronaldo Mulitalo hit back for the Sharks just before halftime to even the scores at 4-all.
But veteran North Queensland prop Matt Scott hit and spun his way out of three defenders to score right on halftime to give the Cowboys the lead going into the break.
Kyle Feldt failed a head injury assessment, which caused a backline reshuffle, just after the break but it didn't faze North Queensland, who took just five minutes to score through a Francis Molo try.
But tries to Sharks backs Bronson Xerri and Josh Dugan helped halt a five-game losing streak for Cronulla.