Sharks underwhelm but too good for Titans as Talakai puts Origin hand up

Cronulla Sharks, featured, Gold Coast Titans, League, NRL, Rugby League



Cronulla have emerged from an error-riddled display back in the NRL’s top four following a hard-earned 18-10 win over last-placed Gold Coast.

The Sharks grabbed consecutive wins for the first time since rounds four and five on Saturday but were anything but convincing in front of a sellout crowd in Coffs Harbour.

Siosifa Talakai threw his hat into the ring for New South Wales after the match – despite being picked for Tonga’s trip to New Zealand – with Jack Wighton ruled out of Game 2 due to Covid.

“You know my number Freddie. Give me a call” said the centre on ABC Radio after the game, with a centre spot now clearly up for grabs.

Craig Fitzgibbon’s side led 10-0 early and looked on course for a blowout victory but had to scrap for the all-important two competition points that helped them leapfrog Brisbane into fourth place.

The Titans levelled the match at 10-10 before the break but the Sharks scored the only points of the second half in a lacklustre display that playmaker Nicho Hynes predicted would not have impressed coach Fitzgibbon.

“These are danger games and they came to play,” Hynes said.

“The way we competed, he’ll be happy with that. But if we’re going to compete with the best teams in the competition, we need to be way better.”

The Sharks repeatedly invited the Titans back into the contest with 15 errors.

“We’re giving away silly penalties in our own end when we’re getting some good kicks away and we’re just making silly offloads, errors,” Hynes said.

“So we need to take a really hard look at ourselves, review those areas and stop doing those silly things so we can compete with those best teams.

“The Melbournes and Penriths don’t do those things. They’re ruthless and relentless.” 

A tight contest didn’t look likely early as a clever cut-out tap-on from Will Kennedy let in-form winger Sione Katoa open the scoring.

Five-eighth Matt Moylan made it two Sharks tries in four minutes with an impressive solo effort.

Titans fullback AJ Brimson put his side back in the game when his line break set up Beau Fermor, who ran more than half the field to pull the score back to 10-6.

Gold Coast were level at 10-10 through Greg Marzhew on 25 minutes, who powered to the line in the corner after crashing straight through Katoa.

Moylan thought he had found his double in the shadows of halftime, but his try was chalked off for an obstruction, while only desperate Titans goal-line defence prevented a Jesse Ramien try with the first half’s penultimate play.

Moylan produced some magic to create a quick try for Blayke Brailey to reclaim the lead after halftime, while a Nicho Hynes penalty extended the margin to eight points on 58 minutes.

That proved the last points of the match as Cronulla escaped the NSW mid north coast back in the four ahead of another important match against Canterbury next Saturday. 

In his final audition before State of Origin game two, NSW aspirant Hynes had a hand in two tries, forced two goal-line dropouts with inch-perfect kicks and was a constant creative factor in the win.

Cronulla found some big metre-eating performances from their backs, led by Katoa (154m), Siosifa Talakai (148m) and Ramien (136m), while captain Dale Finucane had 85m off the bench in his return from injury.

Titans captain Tino Fa’asuamaleaui produced another monstrous game for his club with 187m, while Fermor was also gutsy.

The Titans side showed plenty more heart than they have in recent weeks but again failed to fire particularly inside opposition territory in slumping to 3-12 for the season.

Back at fullback after spending most of the season in the halves, Brimson had some nice touches, including his try-assist. 

© AAP

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