With two men down after the first 15 minutes the Sharks found a way to grind out an eight point win over the hapless Gold Coast Titans.
The first game of Magic Round proved to be a scrappy affair between the Sharks and Titans at Suncorp Stadium.
Jayden Brailey looked like pouncing off of Jarrod Wallace’s mistake from the kick off though lost control of the ball when attempting to ground it.
A few minutes later, the video referee disallowed Bryce Cartwright’s try when Shannon Boyd was deemed to obstruct the Sharks defender.
Sharks star prop Andrew Fifita succumbed to a hamstring complaint in the first five minutes of the game, which proved to be costly for the Sharks later on.
A brilliant pass from Sharks playmaker Chad Townsend saw Josh Morris score in the corner to put his side in the lead 4-0 after 10 minutes.
An error from Paul Gallen saw the Titans go on the attack inside Cronulla’s half, which led to a Dale Copley try from a lucky bounce from an Ash Taylor pass.
A mistake on the first tackle from Michael Gordon allowed the Sharks to begin their set in great field position.
A deft kick from Townsend saw Morris collect his second try to put the Sharks back into the lead 10-6.
The see sawing first half continued when Braden Hamlin-Uele’s offload end up in the hands of Alexander Brimson who sprinted 45 metres to score untouched adjacent to the uprights.
With only three minutes to go Ash Taylor continued his fantastic start to the game with a wonderful grubber to Tyrone Peachey who scored to put his side back in front.
When both teams went to the sheds for half time the Titans enjoyed an 18-10 lead.
The Sharks came out firing in the second half and looked the better side in the first few exchanges.
A smart play by Kyle Flanagan and a lucky ricochet off the shoulder of a Titans defender allowed Aaron Gray to score his first try as a Shark.
Townsend was stellar all night as he had a hand in many of Cronulla’s tries, including Gray’s second try with a brilliant cut out ball.
Flanagan once again missed the conversion to leave scores level with 20 minutes to play.
Bronson Xerri and Flanagan sprung to life late in the game with Xerri’s line break leading to a clutch penalty goal from Flanagan to put the Sharks up 20-18 with six minutes to go.
Silly mistakes from the Titans allowed the Sharks to put them away as Paul Gallen silenced the home crowd, crashing over in the last minute of the game.
To add insult to injury he kicked the conversion as well in which will most likely be his last game at Suncorp Stadium.
Jesse Arthars’ near dream start
With only 10 minutes to go in the first half Jesse Arthars came onto a NRL field for the first time and nearly had a try with his first touch. A great Ash Taylor kick flirted with the touchline five metres out from the line as Aaron Gray attempted to shepherd it out. A fortunate bounce saw the ball touch Gray’s thigh before Arthars pushed him over to score what he thought would be his first try of his career.
Worries over Suncorp surface
The greasy conditions obviously didn’t help the Suncorp surface though it’ll be interesting to see what it is going to look like before Sunday’s games. No rain is expected over the weekend, though during the second half the surface was being ripped up in some places on the ground.
Injuries mount for the Sharks
Starting props Andrew Fifita (hamstring) and Matt Prior (collarbone/shoulder) were new additions to Cronulla’s long injury list, as they didn’t last the first 20 minutes of the contest. Matt Moylan, Shaun Johnson and Wade Graham are just two of the big names on the sidelines; with Fifita and Prior now joining them for what looks like long-term injuries, the Sharks’ depth will be tested enormously.
Morris shows he’s still got it
Sharks veteran Josh Morris produced his best performance for the club with a dominating 80 minutes. Morris outplayed Brian Kelly on the left edge with two tries and seven tackle busts.
CRONULLA-SUTHERLAND SHARKS 26
Tries: Josh Morris 2, Aaron Gray 2, Paul Gallen
Goals: Kyle Flanagan 2/5, Paul Gallen 1/1
GOLD COAST TITANS 18
Tries: Dale Copley, Alexander Brimson, Tyrone Peachey
Goals: Michael Gordon 3/3
GOLD COAST TITANS
- Michael Gordon 2. Anthony Don 3. Tyrone Peachey 4. Brian Kelly 5. Dale Copley 6. Alexander Brimson 7. Ash Taylor 8. Jarrod Wallace 9. Mitch Rein 10. Shannon Boyd 11. Kevin Proctor 12. Bryce Cartwright 13. Jai Arrow. Interchange: 14. Jesse Arthars 15. Moeaki Fotuaika 17. Max King 18. Jack Stockwell
- Josh Dugan 2. Sosaia Feki 3. Bronson Xerri 4. Josh Morris 5. Aaron Gray 6. Kyle Flanagan 7. Chad Townsend 8. Andrew Fifita 9. Jayden Brailey 10. Matt Prior 11. Briton Nikora 12. Kurt Capewell 13. Paul Gallen. Interchange: 14. Blayke Brailey 15. Jayson Bukuya 16. Jack Williams 17. Braden Hamlin-Uele