The stifiling and smothering tactics of the Cronulla Sharks has claimed the scalp of the fancied Gold Coast Titans team tonight. The Sharks proving masters at dragging top line NRL sides down to their level and certainly making Toyota Park at nightmare ground for opposition teams to visit.
The Titans knew their season was on the line tonight, they really needed to show more desperation. They lacked focus at times, seemingly only realising the gravity of the situation once it was too late.
In a game where there was plenty of dropped ball, thousands of penalties and limited creativity – it certainly suited the Sharks much more than the Titans. At times, the amount of penalties blown and the constant stop start format of the game had me thinking I was watching Rugby Union. The Sharks do deserve credit however, they had nothing to play for and really gave their home fans a nice finale as they notched up a win to end their final Toyota Park match.
Greg Bird and Paul Gallen were standouts again, cutting through the opposition line and proving to be the driving force for the Sharks all night. The two NSW Origin reps also showed their teammates the way in defence, tackling with punishing force and showing good niggle tactics that ultimately worked in their favour, sucking the Titans into sledging and bickering all night. The only fault with these two Sharks players is their tendency to stay down regularly as they try to attract penalties. Gallen has been cautioned before for his acting and Bird tonight put on a Hollywood special as he lay down in goal to attract a penalty for a grapple, saving the Sharks from a drop-out.
The Titans struggled in attack yet again tonight, even when they had good field position at times they simply just couldn’t pierce through the impressive Sharks defence. As frustration set in, they began trying some uncharacteristic methods that proved wasteful – turning the ball over cheaply and driving John Cartwright nuts.
At the back Chris Walker had an unhappy night, dropping the pill several times and getting some unlucky calls from the officials. Scott Prince struggled to get into the game, his forwards unable to get any advantage as the Sharks ruck slowing tactics worked a treat. Hooker Nathan Friend at times looked dangerous, but the Titans could not build pressure and went for broke on most sets.
For the Sharks, their hooking duo of Issac de Gois and Kevin Kingston were in good knick, de Gois keeping the Cronulla momentum rolling and Kingston proving extremely dynamic when injected into the game. Kingston scoring a crucial solo try late in the game to get the Sharks over the line safely.
It certainly wasn’t a spectacle for the Rugby League fan – this was NRL trench warfare and only die hard supporters could stomach tonights main course. The speed and quality was certainly a few notches down from the NRL games played last night. The Titans will overall be happy with their first year back into the NRL and the Sharks will continue to build confidence to end their season on a high note.