Holmes the hero as Sharks win thriller

Valentine Holmes was the hero but it was Luke Lewis who provided the inspiration as the Sharks fought back from a 10-point half-time deficit to win a golden point thriller 23-22 over the Titans at Cbus Super Stadium on Saturday night.

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Titans v Sharks: Five key points

Valentine Holmes was the hero but it was Luke Lewis who provided the inspiration as the Sharks fought back from a 10-point half-time deficit to win a golden point thriller 23-22 over the Titans at Cbus Super Stadium on Saturday night.

After Aidan Sezer missed with a sideline conversion of Anthony Don's try in the 75th minute the sides finished 80 minutes locked together at 22 apiece and on the back of a powerful first set in defence the Sharks got in position to give two-try hero Holmes a shot at glory from 30m out in front of the posts in the second minute of additional time.

 

 

It wasn't pretty, but it went over, and heading into the bye next weekend it gave the Sharks a crucial vault up the Telstra Premiership ladder.

It was a brave effort from the Titans to fight back in the closing five minutes as they battled on without David Mead, William Zillman and skipper Nate Myles who all left the field in the second half through injury and played no further part in the game.

"We lost two outside backs, 'Meady' and William Zillman so we're shuffling people around and Nate couldn't come back so we were down to one on the bench and you're playing people out of position all over the place," Titans coach Neil Henry explained. "We're hanging in with that, we're battling on, but we still gave them the opportunity to get back in the game regardless of being down to one on the bench.

"There are some deflated boys in there really that we let them back into the game."

It's the time of the year that Origin bolters are thrown into the mix but Blues veteran Lewis showed just what it takes to excel at the top level with two inspirational pieces of play late in the second half to give his team a shot at their fourth win of the season.

It wasn't the try he scored early in the half to get his team back into the game but two charge downs of Sezer kicks that earned his team valuable field position, his second in the 70th minute putting Cronulla on the front foot for Jack Bird to score the try that gave the visitors the lead for the first time in the game.

But there was no question the nerveless Holmes being able to atone for earlier blunders was a great source of pride for Sharks coach Shane Flanagan.

"We've seen it at training plenty of times, he's got a long kick and he strikes it well," Flanagan said of Holmes' field goal prowess.

"It wasn't his best game but he came up with a really important play at the end there that got us the competition points. For a young boy, he'll learn from that."

Leading 14-4 at half-time the Titans extended their lead to 12 after seven minutes of the second half after two brain fades from first Valentine Holmes and then skipper Wade Graham.

In a mixed night for the 19-year-old, Holmes chose to bat the ball dead rather than catch a Kane Elgey chip on the full and from the next set Graham handed the Titans an easy two points when he inexplicably punched the ball from the grasp of Eddy Pettybourne.

The Sharks' two most experienced players, Michael Ennis and Lewis, combined close to the line in the 50th minute after some enterprising play from Ben Barba and Andrew Fifita in the lead-up got them inside the Titans' 10m line.

Michael Gordon's successful conversion brought the score back to 16-10 with the Titans able to extend that to eight with Sezer's third penalty goal of the night in the 54th minute.

A simple spill of a Barba bomb by Don on his own try-line handed Holmes his sixth and easiest try of the season in the 59th minute and when Josh Hoffman spilt a Jeff Robson grubber on the Titans' line the Sharks appeared to have taken the lead courtesy of Blake Ayshford.

Having been sent upstairs as a 'no try', the video referees agreed that Ayshford had lost control and the Titans maintained their slender two-point advantage.

Eventually they gave that up when Jack Bird again put himself in the right place at the right time to score from close range with a Titans defence in tatters in the 72nd minute before a try with five minutes remaining to Anthony Don sent the match into golden point.

The weird and wonderful had dominated the opening 40 minutes as both sides sought to head into next weekend's bye on the right note.

Although it took until the 23rd minute for the deadlock to be broken there was no shortage of action prior with a Dave Taylor bust, Michael Ennis kicking on the second tackle from halfway and Nate Myles' noggin copping a Steeden flush on the forehead.

A sublime ball from Aidan Sezer put Taylor into open pasture on the fifth minute but the Sharks defence recovered well and Gold Coast botched the ensuing play to let Cronulla off the hook.

Midway through the first half Cronulla had a number of good shots on the Titans' try-line without success and when some simmering niggle developed into Ennis throwing the ball at Myles in frustration, the Sharks hooker was penalised and the Titans went on the attack, Ryan James crashing over courtesy of a well-worked ruck play with hooker Kierran Moseley.

The try was James's fourth of the season – his best ever haul in the top grade – and his powerful performance in both attack and defence gave New South Wales coach Laurie Daley something to ponder on Sunday.

Although the Titans had the better of play as the half wore on their second try came against the run of play with David Mead racing 95 metres and outpacing Sharks five-eighth Jack Bird to score his third of the season and 58th of his career.

With Cronulla attacking the Titans' line, James Roberts jammed in on Wade Graham, the ball bobbling free and into Mead's hands, the video referee finding insufficient evidence to overturn the on-field decision of 'try' despite doubts over a possible knock-on by Roberts.

Sezer added a penalty goal in the 35th minute for a handy 14-0 advantage before the Sharks took advantage of a Gold Coast error two minutes before the break, Valentine Holmes making up for a mistake-riddled opening half to bridge the gap to 10 points at half-time.

Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 23 (Valentine Holmes 2, Luke Lewis, Jack Bird tries; Michael Gordon 3 goals, Holmes field goal) def. Gold Coast Titans 22 (Ryan James, David Mead, Anthony Don tries; Aidan Sezer 5 goals) in the second minute of golden point extra-time at Cbus Super Stadium. Half-time: Titans 14-4. Crowd: 10,466. Holden Cup: Sharks 18-16.