On a wet and wild night at CBUS Super Stadium on the Gold Coast it was the Cronulla Sharks who handled the conditions best to out last a gallant Gold Coast Titans side 10 – 9.
With heavy rain greeting the players at kickoff this was never going to be a high scoring affair and although both sides moved the ball around early the slippery conditions made it hard to finish off scoring opportunities for both sides early on.
It was of no surprise the first points of the game came from a Michael Gordon penalty goal with the Titans knowing point scoring would be at a premium.
The Sharks were the first side to cross the line for a try although once again the poor weather played a big part with Gordon spilling a Chad Townsend bomb on his own line which flyer Valentine Holmes happily picked up and put down for his 5th try of the season.
The Sharks then crossed again 20 minutes later after some nice passes from Townsend and Josh Dugan saw Edrick Lee cross in the corner. The Sharks decided to take a field goal just before halftime through Townsend to give the Sharks a 9-2 lead at halftime.
The second half saw the match turn into a real arm wrestle and although the Titans seemed to be camped down on the Sharks’ line for most of the half they could only manage a single try to hooker Mitch Rein after he barged over from dummy half.
With time starting to run out the Titans seemed to run out of ideas on how to breach the Cronulla defence so up stepped Titans star halfback Ash Taylor to slot a classy field goal to level the scores 9-9, but a break from Dugan put the Sharks in field goal territory and up stepped Townsend once again to slot another field goal and with only a minute to go that would be enough for the Sharks to take to two competition points 10-9.
Andrew Fifita is one of the more polarizing players in the game with his behaviour on and off the field sometimes leaving a lot to be desired, but his attitude and leadership he has shown in the last two matches with the Sharks missing so many key forwards and leaders of the club has been fantastic.
Fifita has played big minutes and put out big numbers during the Sharks’ last two starts playing the entire first half in both matches, a rare feat for a front rower.
With Paul Gallen, Wade Graham and Luke Lewis all missing Shane Flanagan would have told Fifita he needed him to step up and he didn’t disappoint.
With the Sharks already missing veteran forwards Paul Gallen and Luke Lewis the last thing they needed was to lose another experienced forward before kickoff, which is exactly what happened when co-captain Wade Graham’s hamstring forced him out of the lineup.
But unknown to almost everybody was that experienced prop Matt Prior was almost a late scratching also after contracting a blood infection during the week he spent most of his build up to the game on a drip in hospital and only flew up for the game at 11:00am Saturday morning.
Flanagan and Fifita paid tribute to Prior’s heroics at the post match press conference whilst also putting his name forward for a State of Origin spot.
With the game locked at 9-9 and all the momentum running with the Titans Ash Taylor put up a towering bomb landing around the Sharks’ 10 metre line, after Brendan Elliot and Holmes contested the bomb Bryce Cartwright ended up with the ball in his hands and a golden chance for Gold Coast to steal victory.
Cartwright threw a ‘dummy’ to winger Phillip Sami before flick passing to Ryan James who spilt the pass, you couldn’t be sure either Sami or James would have scored but for the Titans that was their chance to win the game, in the next set Cronulla marched down the field and kicked the winning field goal.
Nothing to split the sides
Leading into the game it was always expected to be a tight affair with both sides sitting on three wins a piece and history showing each side have won eight games and drawn two from their previous meetings.
As it turned out it was another close battle with only the one point separating the sides whilst all match stats were again evenly spread. It’s very rare to see a game with every set of stats fairly even with there generally being at least one or two stats where you could identify where one side gained their advantage.
It just showed how close these sides were and although this game doesn’t usually get much hype surrounding it the Sharks v Titans match ups are always closely fought entertaining battles.
Cronulla Sharks 10
Tries: Valentine Holmes, Edrick Lee
Goals: Chad Townsend 0/2
Drop Goals: Chad Townsend 2
Gold Coast Titans 9
Tries: Mitch Rein
Goals: Michael Gordon 2/2
Drop Goals: Ash Taylor
Titans: 1 Michael Gordon, 2 Anthony Don, 3 Brendan Elliot, 4 Konrad Hurrell, 5 Phillip Sami, 6 Bryce Cartwright, 7 Ashley Taylor, 8 Jarrod Wallace, 9 Mitch Rein, 10 Ryan James (c), 11 Kevin Proctor, 12 Will Matthews, 13 Jai Arrow, 14 Max King, 15 Jack Stockwell, 16 Keegan Hipgrave, 17 Morgan Boyle
Sharks: 1 Josh Dugan, 2 Edrick Lee, 3 Jesse Ramien, 4 Ricky Leutele, 5 Valentine Holmes, 6 Matt Moylan, 7 Chad Townsend, 8 Andrew Fifita (c), 9 Jayden Brailey, 10 Matt Prior, 11 Scott Sorensen, 18 Kurt Capewell, 13 Joseph Paulo, 14 Jayson Bukuya, 15 James Segeyaro, 16 Ava Seumanufagai, 17 Kurt Dillion,