Cronulla have missed the chance to climb into the NRL top four with a controversial 12-10 loss to Brisbane on Thursday night.
Valentine Holmes continued his phenomenal try-scoring strike rate for the Sharks in scoring a double as Cronulla fought back to 10-all just after half-time at Suncorp Stadium.
But a missed conversion and some questionable refereeing decisions went against Cronulla as a Jordan Kahu penalty goal gave Brisbane victory.
The Sharks welcomed back Luke Lewis from a calf injury, with the veteran back-rower in action for the first time since announcing his retirement at the end of the season.
But the Sharks were without Wade Graham after the representative back-rower succumbed to a troublesome groin problem which saw him miss the second half of last week’s win over Canberra. Edrick Lee also missed the match through injury, with Sosaia Feki returning on the wing.
Brisbane opened the scoring after 13 minutes through Corey Oates.
With Cronulla on the attack, Darius Boyd intercepted a Matt Moylan pass. Boyd found Oates who completed the rest of the journey to score.
The Sharks hit back shortly after with one of the team tries of the season.
Cronulla could have been confused for the Harlem Globetrotters as they threw the ball around on Brisbane’s line. Jesse Ramien’s offload and Chad Townsend’s desperation to keep the ball alive on the ground allowed Andrew Fifita to find Holmes to score next to the posts.
Brisbane took back the lead when prop Matt Lodge, only just on the field, barged over from close range.
The Sharks could have at least drawn level soon after when Ricky Leutele looked to have scored out wide.
Match officials awarded a try, only for the video referee to disallow it after Leutele was shown to have grounded the ball on Jamayne Isaako’s boot.
The Sharks did hit back three minutes into the second half when James Segeyaro showed great awareness out of dummy-half to isolate a stranded marker.
The hooker broke through before finding Holmes in support to complete his double.
But despite scoring next to the posts, Townsend badly shanked his conversion attempt from close range to hit the upright and leave the scores level at 10-all.
Brisbane made the most of the reprieve, with Kahu putting the Broncos in front with a penalty goal.
The Sharks had the chance to take the lead but bombed an almost certain try when Joseph Paulo opted not to pass the ball when Cronulla appeared to have numbers on the right edge while attacking Brisbane’s line.
Cronulla were then on the end of a dubious decision when Matt Prior appeared to have forced an error from Brisbane deep in their own half with a jarring tackle.
But match officials, despite initially ruling a knock on against Brisbane, decided Prior had stripped the ball in a one on one tackle before knocking it on himself.
Cronulla then suffered another tough call. A short goal line drop out saw Moylan chase through the high ball and clip Isaako. Match officials ruled Moylan had put Isaako in a dangerous position with the collision despite it appearing an accident.
The Sharks had their chances to steal a late victory with a number of repeat sets on Brisbane’s line.
But the Broncos showed incredible resilience to turn back the Sharks time and again to hold on for a gutsy victory.
The Sharks now enjoy a 10-day turnaround before they host struggling Manly next Sunday.
Brisbane Broncos 12 (Corey Oates, Matt Lodge tries. Jordan Kahu two goals)
Cronulla Sharks 10 (Valentine Holmes two tries. Chad Townsend goals)
at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Leader man of the match: Matt Prior (Sharks)
Sharks’ next three: Sea Eagles (home), Storm (away), Cowboys (home)