The return of Jarryd Hayne has sparked the Titans to a hard-fought 16-12 upset victory over the high-flying Sharks at Southern Cross Group Stadium on Saturday night in front of over 12,000 fans.
Gold Coast opened tonight's game in confident fashion, gifted early field possession by an ill-disciplined Sharks outfit. A fast start was critical if the Titans were to get on top of a Cronulla side coming off four straight victories and Tyrone Roberts provided just that when he stepped through the Sharks' defence to score in the fifth minute.
The home side's sloppy start continued when Wade Graham burst through a hole only to drop a bullet-like pass from James Maloney which was a tad too fast for the second rower. Yet, eventually the Sharks found themselves gaining momentum and Ricky Leutele took advantage when he powered over a trio of Titans defenders to score in the corner in the 24th minute.
Cronulla were suddenly gaining the upper hand, and in the 31st minute Jason Bukuya claimed a try - and he got it… well sort of. Although Bukuya did not ground the ball, the Bunker correctly ruled a Penalty Try with Dale Copley deemed to have denied Bukuya from planting the Steeden.
Not too long after, the Titans had a final chance to level things up only minutes from the break when Jarryd Hayne fired a perfect ball for Dan Sarginson - yet the Englishman dropped it with the try line begging.
Chad Townsend and Maloney began the second half in impressive fashion, orchestrating a flurry of repeat sets for the Cronulla side. To the Titans' credit they held out the raid in a positive sign for coach Neil Henry, seeing that the Gold Coast were the worst defensive side in the competition coming into this one - conceding on average just under 30 points a game.
The Titans would need to continue to hang on when concussion forced Chris McQueen off the field, reducing the away side to just 15 men after Chris Grevsmuhl was also ruled out from returning with a shoulder injury. A penalty in the 59th minute saw Maloney kick a penalty goal and the Sharks looked a chance of possibly running away with it.
Yet, like they always have, the Titans stood tall and fought on, eventually finding their way over the line once more when Hayne once again showed great vision to put Leivaha Pulu over in the 64th minute. And only twelve minutes later Pulu had a double when a hopeful grubber from Sarginson was collected by Joe Greenwood who offloaded to put the New Zealander over for his second.
In a frantic final minutes, the Sharks regathered it off the kick-off and looked to have forced a goal line drop-out, only for Anthony Don to somehow make it back into the field of play. Cronulla had one final set to win it yet the Gold Coast held on, finally rewarded for their bravery with a 16-12 win.
Next week, the Sharks will look to bounce back when they take on the Tigers at Leichhardt Oval on Saturday night. Meanwhile, the Titans face fellow battlers the Knights when they return to Robina on Saturday afternoon.