John Cartwright Gold Coast Titans coach, gets win in NRL Round 3 2008 over DragonsThe game at Skilled Park got underway with a physical opening, the bash and barge Cronulla defence immediately visible and the Titans also packing some punch as the two teams came together. There were a few nerves early on, with both teams letting dangerous bombs bounce and the Titans unlucky not to score a quick try – with Ben Jeffery getting a nice bounce, but support player Luke O’Dwyer ruled to be inside the 10m.

The Sharks quickly recovered to have a crack themselves, putting up a spiral bomb that was also left to bounce by Scott Prince and fortunately for the Gold Coast, Jordan Aitkens picked up the scraps and saved the day.

The physical nature of the game continued, Matt Rogers looking very keen against his old club and getting involved in plenty of the early play. Anthony Laffranchi felt the hard head of Paul Gallen, the two clashing skulls – with Laffranchi coming off the worst, suffering a heavy forehead gash and eye socket damage, forcing his side to make an interchange to stitch him up.

Possession was heavily favouring the Titans early, the Gold Coast having nearly 70% of the ball after 10 minutes. The usually dynamic attacking side however was unable to crack that brick wall Sharks defence. Paul Gallen was running around like a man possessed in defence, tackling everything that moved and hitting it with brute force.

The Titans getting several sets of 6 around the 15 minute mark, but the Sharks were able to repel wave after wave of attack. Cronulla eventually getting some ball after a silly O’Dwyer mistake from the play the ball. You could see the frustration building in the local side – unable to pierce the Sharks line, even with mammoth amounts of possession.

It’s interesting to watch the Sharks of 2008, we know their defence is one of the best in the NRL – but their attack is now setup with such a deeper structure, they have previously played such flat lines with the ball – these days they look a lot better running the Ricky Stuart set plays. Their patient play was rewarded in the 25 minute mark, the Sharks working the play to their right and David Simmons bolted onto a nice Blake Green pass to score a smart try in the corner.

The Gold Coast were struggling to make any inroads with their attack, their last tackle plays were a little off the mark in the first half hour – things compounded by penalties to allow the Sharks out of their red zone. The Sharks no-name forwards making very few errors and allowing the side to get very quick play the balls, which in turn was allowing Kimmorley and Kearney so much time and space to run plays.

For the Titans, Preston Campbell was a stand-out. Heavily involved and comfortably defusing bombs and nearly forcing line-breaks around the rucks. He looks good in 2008 Campbell and tonight seemed most likely to penetrate for the home side.

Gold Coast seemed to channel a lot of their play at the Cronulla left hand edge defence. Centre Ben Pommeroy handling everything that was thrown at him and nearly picking off two intercepts off Scott Prince cut out balls. Half time coming around, the Titans had all the ball but were unable to use it to good effect – score 4-0 to Cronulla.

The wild Titans fans finally found their voice as dual international Mat Rogers overcame a controversial week to score a fine solo try in the 47th minute with a simple kick and regather. The home side getting a good early confidence boost through the Rogers try – setting the tone for the second half.

Eight minutes later Cronulla again buckled under the pressure when former international Brad Meyers stormed over following good lead-up work by Scott Prince and Nathan Friend to make it 10-4. The two tries in quick succession for the locals changed the game from an arm-wrestle to a more open affair and it seemed the more uptempo play was suiting the Titans much more than the Sharks.

By the 68th it was 12-4 after Sharks captain Paul Gallen’s facial massage on Laffranchi’s bandaged head led to a penalty and Prince did the rest. Any hope the travelling Sharks had eroded with Gallens poor play, forcing his team to defend and take more petrol out of the tank. Frustration continuing to build as the Sharks could feel things slipping away.

Flying Gold Coast winger Jordan Atkins than crossed for his fifth try in two games at Skilled Park when Prince and Rogers combined to send him over on the right sideline in the 74th. Mat Rogers noticably exactic with the try and keen to get the win over his old side – the pivot keeping busy all night and getting just rewards.

Cronulla had hoped to extend their surprise season start, but the Titans were good enough to make something of the second half and ensue the home win. The win ratio of 100% at Robina remaining in-tact for the Coast.

The Titans will again entertain their adoring home fans next Saturday when they play host to the Canberra Raiders, whilst the Sharks continue their road trip thanks to their home ground renovations, this time meeting the St George-Illawarra Dragons next Saturday night at ANZ Stadium.

Gold Coast Titans 18
Tries: Mat Rogers, Brad Meyers, Jordan Atkins
Goals: Scott Prince 3
Cronulla Sharks 4
Tries: David Simmons

At Skilled Park

Referee – Jason Robinson
Crowd – 19,050

By ricky

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