Titans v Sharks: Five key points
The Sharks pipped the Titans in a golden point thriller in their Round 10 Telstra Premiership clash at Cbus Super Stadium. Here's five key points from the game.
To kick off or receive, that is the question
Sharks skipper Wade Graham said he also would have chosen to receive whereas Titans coach Neil Henry wanted third skipper-in-line Luke Douglas to kick-off but the message didn't reach the centre of the field before the coin toss prior to golden point extra time.
As it was, a defensive set full of muscle from the Sharks and a disjointed Titans attack handed Cronulla the field position from which Valentine Holmes was able to launch his match-winning field goal after just two minutes of golden point, handing the Titans their second one-point loss of the season.
But even after two games that went to golden point back-to-back on Saturday, opinions are divided as to what the best option is if you win that all-important toss.
"I actually sent the message to kick off but it didn't get to 'Dougie' so we went the other way. I thought we should have kicked off," Henry admitted.
"I probably actually would have received as well," said Graham.
"It's just that I happened to lose the toss and 'Dougie' wanted the ball. The mindset behind that for me would be that you need the ball to win in golden point. We were just lucky we got a good defensive set on and then Sezer's kick wasn't the greatest which put us in good position."
Value of turning two points into four
If you're a Sharks fan you've already banked next week's two competition points courtesy of the bye and are figuring your team will be well and truly entrenched in the top eight by the time Round 11 wraps up. It's a far cry from Cronulla's position prior to kick-off against the Titans when they were 14th on the ladder and hoping to keep pace with the top eight. That's the power that comes with a win going into a bye.
Given the heart-breaking nature of their loss to the Warriors in Round 9, Sharks coach Shane Flanagan conceded that seeing two further competition points slip through their fingers could have had major repercussions.
"I was probably looking at the other side of the coin and how damaging it could have been if we didn't win," Flanagan said.
"In the end we got the points and it's a really important two points going into the bye and it keeps us in good shape. The competition's so close and you need to win those games just for our confidence. Losing a game like that tonight would have really hurt."
Brain snaps are fun to watch
It's a sure-fire way to age your coach five years in the space of 80 minutes but there's something endearing about an impulsive brain snap. After escaping their in-goal courtesy of Ben Barba and Blake Ayshford and starting their set just inside their own half early in the first half, Sharks hooker Michael Ennis kicked downfield, either in search of a 40/20 or the flying Valentine Holmes, neither of which he was able to find. A combination of good defence and bad management saw the Titans botch a golden chance in the fifth minute when Dave Taylor made a bust deep into Cronulla territory and then from the next play James Roberts dropped it cold. After 23 minutes Ennis was again in the thick of it when he threw the Steeden at Nate Myles's head for which he was penalised, gifting Titans territory from which they soon scored.
In the second half Valentine Holmes batted a Kane Elgey kick dead rather than catching it on the full and earning seven-tackle set and from the very next set Wade Graham inexplicably knocked the ball free from Eddy Pettybourne's grasp to hand Sezer another shot at penalty goal from adjacent to the posts.
Then, after the Sharks finally got themselves in front with less than 10 minutes to play, Sam Tagataese threw a chancy offload to Sami Sauiluma that gifted the Titans possession which they used to score the match-tying try.
Call it a brain snap if you will; I prefer to call it 'lowly ladder position' syndrome.
Battered Titans still a work in progress
They finished the game with only one interchange player fit and available but Titans coach Neil Henry said it was the lack of composure amongst his young playmakers that proved most costly in the game's dying stages.
David Mead (hamstring), William Zillman (knee) and Nate Myles (concussion) all failed to finish the game for Gold Coast which forced widespread disruptions to their positional play and contributed somewhat to their poor set from the extra-time kick off.
But having led 16-4 early in the second half and 18-10 with 20 minutes left to play, Henry said the inexperience of halfback Kane Elgey and hooker Kierran Moseley tells under pressure.
"We lack a bit of composure at the moment. Young Kane Elgey in the halves, Kierran Moseley, it's a learning curve," Henry said.
"You're not always going to get guys that are going to step in there and be able to roll down the field and execute the field goal at 22-all. We had an opportunity and we didn't, we mucked up our set.
"We've played twice here now and back to the Wests Tigers and the experience of [Robbie] Farah rolled down the field, got their opportunity, executed their play. Today they did the same, [Michael] Ennis gets them down the field, execute the play and that's what you've got to do. We're not quite there yet in our key positions."
Sharks kicking game needs a go-to man
Too often at the end of their sets the Sharks appeared unsure as to who should be the one to apply the polish and the split of kicks in general play, showing Cronulla need to settle on a go-to man.
Hooker Michael Ennis kicked five times – including a puzzling kick deep on tackle two and some poor options close to the line – while Jeff Robson and Jack Bird had four and three kicks apiece.
As Elgey and Sezer forced repeat sets from near halfway for the Titans and forced four dropouts over the course of the game, the Sharks could conjure just one and come up with more than 100 kick metres fewer than Gold Coast.
"'Robbo' is probably the key man there and we didn't get it done today," said Sharks coach Shane Flanagan.
"Jack Bird is only young and learning the game and it's something we'll be working really hard on over the bye week, to get that kicking game right. It's been quite good over the last six or seven weeks but it definitely wasn't good enough tonight."