'Sheer brute force!' Cowboys' powerhouse Jason Taumalolo barges over to score carrying four Sharks players with him

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North Queensland's NRL season had every right to be over, but for the umpteenth time this year the Cowboys have soldiered on with a 15-14 extra-time win over Cronulla.

The Cowboys have every reason to be enjoying the end-of-season holiday.

They still have the most expensive casualty ward of all teams in the finals with co-captains and Test players Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott still sitting on the sidelines.

They are playing busted, with winger Antonio Winterstein (hamstring) and Te Maire Martin (knee) gutsing it through with injuries which should have them out.

They won just one of their past six games - their worst end to a regular season since 2010. In fact, they only survived because Canterbury shocked St George Illawarra to bundle them out of the finals last week.

North Queensland entered the first week of the finals aiming to become the first eighth-placed team to survive to the second week since the introduction of the new system in 2012.

And to cap it off, they were up against the defending premiers, who even Cowboys coach Paul Green declared to be unbackable favourites.

Yet somehow after the first round of elimination finals, North Queensland are still alive.

On four separate occasions the Cowboys' season should have been dust on Sunday.

They trailed 8-0 late in the first half, before James Maloney was sin binned for taking Ethan Lowe out of a kick-chase.

In his absence, they worked the score back to 8-6.

Then the Sharks had it in their control again at 14-6, before Jason Taumalolo typified the Cowboys' strength to barge through four Sharks to get the ball down. He ran over 200 metres in 17 hit-ups for the match.

At 14-12, they again looked shot. Then they were given a lucky penalty for a two-on-one strip. Perhaps they deserved a break.

They slotted over the penalty goal, before Michael Morgan stepped out of Johnathan Thurston's shadow in extra time to seal the match with a field goal.

It capped off a fantastic run for the Cowboys' halfback, who has assumed so much of the play-making duties since Thurston (shoulder) was ruled out for the season in June.

At that point, North Queensland's season was meant to be over.

Instead, the 2015 premiers will return back to Sydney next week to face Parramatta, with the knowledge they are just two wins from another grand final - their third in 12 years.

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