LESS than a week after questioning his side’s ability to stay in the fight, Cronulla coach Ricky Stuart lauded his side’s mental toughness as the Sharks came from nowhere to grab a convincing 30-14 NRL win over the Gold Coast.
The Sharks looked dead and buried at Toyota Stadium after falling behind 14-8 just a minute after the break with the Titans capitalising on a Danny Nutley dropped ball on the opening tackle of the second stanza.
That sort of setback would normally crush a side struggling for confidence as the Sharks have been, and a repeat of Stuart’s spray following last Monday night’s loss to the Bulldogs looked like having an encore performance.
But rather than crushing the Sharks, it sparked them into life, three tries in a nine minute blitz of enterprising football blowing away the Titans and Stuart’s misconceptions over his side’s fortitude.
â€œI complimented the players on that, for that to happen and for us to change our while mentality in the second half,” Stuart said.
â€œTo be able to put up with that knock-on tackle one, (and then) a try, to be able to handle that little bit of adversity and bounce back with some good footy was good mental toughness.
â€œWe’ve spoken that all week about being tougher.” The Sharks were tough in the first half, but also fairly ugly.
The speed of their defensive line, and a 8-1 penalty count in the first half, was all that kept them in the game after Greg Bird had showed why he was the best five-eighth option for NSW as he put Ben Pomeroy over for a try just seven minutes in.
Gold Coast half-back Scott Prince turned it on for a six-minute period as he handed the Titans the half-time lead by setting up two tries, but that was about it for the crafty playmaker on what was otherwise a very rare off day at the office.
Stuart said he challenged his players in the sheds at half-time to go back to what they had been doing at training.
â€œI was just a bit dumfounded in regards to how we were playing and just asked a few questions in regards to what was going through their mind,” Stuart said.
â€œEspecially with out attack, because it’s just not the way we prepare or train.”
Stuart admitted training sessions lately have been about 80 per cent attack, 20 per cent defence, but it rarely showed in the first half.
Then, after Delaney scored just after the break, it suddenly clicked.
The ball movement became crisp and the kicking game was on song, Luke Covell, Ben Pomeroy and Greg Bird all scoring within a nine minute period for a 24-14 lead.
The Titans sudden found themselves desperate, and when a Preston Campbell 40-20 attempt sailed over the sideline ten minutes from time, the game was gone.
This was confirmed when Covell capped an 18-point haul with his second try moments later to make it back to back losses for the visitors.
â€œWe haven’t played well for the last three weeks, today was a little bit of a continuation of that,” Titans coach John Cartwright said.
â€œEven though we were in front I was never comfortable, we weren’t playing all that well.
â€œI was hoping that try after halftime might have kicked us into gear a bit but it went the other way.”