I wanted it more: Taumalolo
North Queensland Toyota Cowboys match-winner Jason Taumalolo has declared his game-breaking try was the result of him simply wanting it more than the four Sharks defenders who couldn't stop the big man muscling the Steeden to the turf.
At the back end of a phenomenal season – one in which the 2016 joint Dally M Winner has taken his already absurd game to new heights – Taumalolo produced possibly his best performance yet.
The season's top metre-eater galloped to a match-high 259 metres with eight tackle busts and a crucial try. He ran more in post-contact metres – 109 – than half the players in the match ran for total metres.
But critically, with his team desperately needing some inspiration at 14-6 down with less than 20 minutes remaining, he used every ounce of his brute strength to back into the Cronulla line and somehow scrape the ball along the turf despite Matt Prior, Andrew Fifita, Jayden Brailey and Valentine Holmes doing their best to hold him up.
"I think I just wanted it more than they did," Taumalolo told NRL.com after the game.
"They're a hard side to crack defensively; most teams go around Cronulla but I was pretty determined to try and get that ball down and eventually found a way to score."
Taumalolo said he took it as a personal challenge to bring a physical mentality against Cronulla's fearsome pack.
"The Cronulla forwards, they're big, aggressive, real physical forward pack," he said.
"I came in with the mentality that I wanted to be physical and take them head on through the middle. I definitely went out there and the rest of the boys followed suit and we gave the Cronulla forward pack a good run for their money.
"Being a finals game, obviously 'Gal' (Paul Gallen) and Fifita are a crucial part of Cronulla's go-forward.
"If we could limit them we could limit the opportunities that [halves] James Maloney and Chad Townsend can have so I went in with that mentality where I wanted to take them head on and we did that, we limited their halves and some opportunities and on the back of that some great defence too from the boys."
Seasons 2017 has been a big ask for the Kiwi lock; with senior prop Matt Scott ruled out for the year early on, Taumalolo has attempted to absorb Scott's early-set bash-and-barge role while still backing up for momentum carries and offloads to keep his side rolling.
It's led to him producing the ridiculous average of 205 metres gained per game. Not only is it the most of any player, only Sunday's rival No.13 Gallen (183 metres per game) is anywhere close in terms of forwards with Bulldogs lock David Klemmer next at 167 per week.
"It's been a pretty busy year with Matt Scott out," Taumalolo said in a masterful piece of understatement.
"I'm not saying a lot of people rely on me but I've put up my hand to take it upon myself to try and get the team going forward. I try my best every week and [Sunday] was no different."
Taumalolo's fellow match-winner, halfback Michael Morgan, remained in awe of his teammate's ongoing feats of endurance.
"He's an absolute freak," Morgan said.
"He knows how important he is to this side so that's what's good. When he knows we need something he'll take it upon himself to do it and he did that."
Cowboys coach Paul Green also appreciated Taumalolo's efforts.
"In big games he's really stepped it up in the back end of the season in particular," Green said.
"It's a bit of a sign of his development as a player and his standing in the playing group, he's starting to see himself as that forward leader as well and he was unbelievable."
Taumalolo could be forgiven if he had winced just a little at the 78th minute Ethan Lowe penalty goal that consigned the players to 10 minutes of extra time but the chance to steal the win meant he knew he had to lift for another big effort.
"When we got the ball back [after the goal] I knew the game would go overtime," Taumalolo said.
"It was a bit of an arm wrestle there at the start. We were the first team to flinch at the start with a silly forward pass but the boys held themselves with a great defensive set, fought our way back in to try and get some momentum and eventually got that field goal."
The lock credited the spirit across the whole squad to stay in the fight when few gave them a chance.
"We've had that side of us as a team, even with 'JT' (Thurston) and Matt Scott [out injured]."
Those two injured superstars – who both travelled with the team to Sydney and were in the Allianz Stadium sheds to share in the victory – continue to help out the rest of the players with encouragement and advice and it rubs off, according to Taumalolo.
"We showed a lot of character. Everyone showed up and had each other's backs, that's what we pride ourselves on as Cowboys players and I'm just proud of the boys' efforts tonight," he said.
First published on NRL.com.