A sluggish start from defending premiers North Queensland Cowboys proved costly, with Cronulla Sharks advancing to the NRL Grand Final.
James Maloney scored a double as Cronulla Sharks booked their place in the NRL Grand Final by overcoming defending premiers North Queensland Cowboys 32-20 at Allianz Stadium.
The Sharks had lost their last four preliminary finals but moved to within one match of a first premiership courtesy of 20 points from Maloney, the Cowboys seemingly suffering from fatigue after last weekend's gruelling semi-final triumph over Brisbane Broncos.
North Queensland had to come from behind and required extra time to beat the Broncos 26-20 in a high-intensity match, and Cronulla displayed the benefits of an additional week of rest in an impressive victory.
The Sharks' freshness was evident from the off, penning the Cowboys back inside their own half. However, Andrew Fifita and Chad Townsend having tries ruled out meant a penalty from Maloney gave them just two points to show for 17 minutes of relentless pressure.
Cronulla finally touched down five minutes later as their superior possession and territory told, Sosaia Feki crossing in the corner before Townsend dabbed down after a brilliant line break from Maloney to help make it 14-0 at half-time.
Lachlan Coote pulled one back for the Cowboys within three minutes of the restart when he made the most of some sloppy handling from Townsend, but Luke Lewis powered over to restore the Sharks' 14-point lead.
Maloney managed to cross despite pressure from three defenders for his first in the 56th minute, before intercepting an attempted pass from Gavin Cooper and racing 60 metres for his second.