A five-try second half blitz proved the difference as the Cronulla Sharks defeated the Gold Coast Titans 40-10.
The Titans had a number of last-minute changes which saw new recruit Corey Thompson move to the wing to cover Phillip Sami.
Tyrone Roberts returned from injury at fullback and rookie Beau Fermor start in place of Kevin Proctor.
A surprise choice in Bryce Cartwright was named in the centres over Brian Kelly.
The changes looked like they might have paid off early in the game when Thompson made a break down the left-wing, beating several Sharks players on the way to the try line.
But the bunker ruled that Tyrone Peachey knocked on in the lead-up and the try was overturned.
Five minutes later, Braden Hamlin-Uele opened the scoring for the Sharks.
Halfback Jamal Fogarty shot out of the line in an attempt to shutdown Matt Moylan, who threw a deft pass to put Hamlin-Uele in a position to bust over the line.
It wasn’t long until the Sharks were on the attack again after Roberts failed to stop a brilliant 40/20 from Blayke Brailey.
However, the Titans had a stroke of luck when a Shaun Johnson pass hit the deck.
Thompson scooped up the loose ball and ran the length of the field to score.
The terrible string of luck for Sharks fullback Moylan continued when he pulled up with what appeared to be another hamstring injury.
Moylan shuffled to the centres briefly, pushing Josh Dugan back to fullback.
It wasn’t long until Moylan succumbed and had to leave the field.
The Sharks recovered quickly hitting the lead again when Andrew Fifita scored off a Wade Graham offload.
The Sharks appeared to be getting on top but right before halftime, the Titans scored when Roberts and Cartwright combined to put Anthony Don over in the corner.
Ash Taylor missed the conversion, sending the Titans into the sheds trailing by 2.
The second half started perfectly for the Sharks who crossed over through Briton Nikora within minutes.
Nikora was set up by Johnson who put on a pass at the line reminiscence of their 2019 combination.
It was Johnson’s swift stepping which created the Sharks next try as well.
Johnson took on the line to beat two Titans defenders and offloaded for Brailey who busted through a tackle to score.
The flood gates opened when Chad Townsend was able to step back inside and run through untouched for an easy try.
Brailey then put interchange prop Royce Hunt over for his first ever NRL try.
The Sharks capped off the demolition with a try to Bryce Goodwin set up by a beautiful long ball from Townsend.
It will be back to the drawing board for the Titans who have a good chance of picking up their third win of the season against the Warriors next week.
The Sharks are beginning to build momentum with a third win in a row.
Moving forward, they won’t be helped by the injury to Moylan with a date with the Panthers around the corner.
Johnson’s experience and guile shone through and Sharks coach John Morris made sure to mention it.
“He is just starting to get the balance right, Shauny,” Morris said.
“He has worked so hard on his game and had a really solid pre-season so I was confident that he was going to have a good year.”
Despite the loss, Titans coach Justin Holbrook was ecstatic with the performance of rookie back-rower Beau Fermor.
“He was fantastic for us, Beau,” Holbrook said.
“Ideally, 60 minutes would have been perfect for him after he has only played one scrimmage game, last week, in the past 12 months.”
NRL News Player of the Game
3. Shaun Johnson
2. Blayke Brailey
- Braden Hamlin-Uele