Sharks got exactly what they expected
Cronulla Sharks coach Shane Flanagan drilled home to his players all week that the Gold Coast would scrap their way through the 80 minutes no matter the situation, but his advice wasn't enough as the Titans rallied late to stun the defending premiers 16-12.
Cronulla appeared in control for long stretches of Saturday night's game, but their inability to land the knockout blow came back to haunt them as Leivaha Pulu crossed twice in the final 13 minutes to seal the upset win.
It was a flat performance from a Cronulla side that had won four on the trot, including back-to-back defensive shutouts that saw them hold the Storm and Panthers to solitary penalty goals in recent weeks.
That defensive prowess wasn't on show on Saturday as they missed 38 tackles – a lot of those in the final quarter of the game – to allow their opponents back into the contest.
"They're a footy team that competes from start to finish, and they did that [tonight]. What we spoke about all week, we got," Flanagan said.
"It's hard to put your finger on why [we lost]. Probably our first couple of sets explains why – we turned the ball over and showed no respect for the ball.
"The Gold Coast have competed all year and we knew that coming down here today so it's just disappointing because we're a better football than what we showed today. If you don't do the fundamentals in rugby league, that's what happens.
"Defensively we've been good the past two weeks, but we weren't today. They didn't score a lot of tries, but we weren't good today. It's not something where we need to change our structures or systems; we just need to change our attitude."
Sharks skipper Paul Gallen shared his coach's disappointment at their inability to match it with Gold Coast's unrelenting grit.
"We knew they wouldn't go away and they compete for 80 minutes," he said.
"We got exactly what we expected and they didn't go away all night. They competed on everything and we didn’t have enough respect for the ball.
"It's an ordinary loss."