The Cronulla Sharks were able to earn their way into the top four by overcoming an improved Gold Coast Titans, coming away with an 18-10 victory on Saturday.
The return of AJ Brimson was one which was more than needed for the Titans as they headed into the Saturday afternoon contest on the back of four consecutive losses.
A sunny Coffs Harbour afternoon presented an important chance for the heavily supported Sharks to edge their way into the top four with a win following Brisbane’s loss to Melbourne on Friday night.
The opening 10 minutes was nothing short of sloppy, with both sides struggling to complete sets, however, some slick ball movement from Nicho Hynes and William Kennedy sent an in-form Sione Katoa marching over for the first four pointer.
Not long after, Matt Moylan put on a left foot sidestep to make the Titans defence look rather vulnerable and push his side further in front.
Hynes was able to convert after missing his first attempt.
The two Sharks’ tries appeared to spark an immediate response from Brimson and the Titans, with the returning full-back prompting a runaway try through a welcoming pass to Beau Fermor.
Back-to-back sets and favourable field position later allowed Justin Holbrook’s men to generate some momentum and post another try through Greg Marzhew to tie the game at 10 apiece and set up a crucial final 15 minutes before the break.
The final minutes of the half saw no further changes to the scoreboard, and little was evident to separate the two sides.
The Sharks began the second half with repeat sets and ultimately scored the deserved opening try after the break with Blayke Brailey holding onto a dodgy offload to sneak back in front.
A six point margin remained for the following 10 minutes before the Sharks posted a further two points on the board following a high shot on Moylan.
With under 20 to play, the Titans were beginning to require a spark if they had any plans to crawl back into the game.
The remainder of the game consisted of end to end football which allowed the Sharks to maintain the eight point cushion.
No further damage was brought to the scoreboard in the final 20 minutes, as Cronulla were able to unwind for a slightly unconvincing victory, however, provided the locals of Coffs Harbour with something to cheer for.
They may not have been ecstatic with their performance, in fact “a bit disappointed” as summarised by Hynes post-game, however, on a day where not all was perfect, the hosts were able to get a much needed boost into the top four.
“If we’re going to compete with the best teams in the competition we have to be better,” Hynes said.
“We have to go back to training and work hard on the small parts like giving away penalties at our end. We need to take a good hard look at ourselves.”
While the Titans finished the afternoon with a fifth consecutive loss, fans would undoubtedly be content enough to have been able to see Brimson get through the full 80 minutes.
Titans coach Justin Holbrook believes the club still has plenty of fight left in them.
“There’s plenty of fight in the group,” said Holbrook.”
“If we were two metres short last week, we were only one metre today.”
They head into the week off on the bottom of the ladder, with alarm bells well and truly ringing heading into the latter end of their 2022 campaign.
S.Katoa, M.Moylan, B.Brailey
Conversions: N.Hynes 2/3
Penalty Goals: N.Hynes 1/1
Gold Coast: 10
Conversions: J.Isaako 1/2
NRL News Player of the Game
3. Matt Moylan (CRO)
2. Beau Fermor (GLD)
1. Tino Fa’asuamaleaui (GLD)