Wests Tigers v Sea Eagles preview
3 hours ago | Tim Costello
The Cronulla Sharks have overcome adversity on the scoreboard and with injuries to defeat the Gold Coast Titans 26-18 in the first match of the inaugural NRL Magic Round.
Trailing by eight at the break after losing starting props Andrew Fifita and Matt Prior inside the first quarter, the Sharks resilience proved too strong as they snapped a five-year losing streak at Suncorp Stadium to condemn the Titans to their equal worst start to a year with two wins from their opening nine matches.
In a frenetic opening to the match, Jayden Brailey and Bryce Cartwright were denied tries during the opening stages, before Josh Morris gave the Sharks first points in the tenth minute after strong work from Kurt Capewell in the lead up.
Responding with a try to Dale Copley in the 18th minute, a bizarre passage of play saw both sides score within moments of each other after Morris (23rd minute) bagged his second, only for AJ Brimson (25th minute) to latch onto a wayward offload moments later to give the Titans a 12-10 lead.
Making his first grade debut off the bench, Jesse Arthars looked to have scored twice just before halftime only for Aaron Gray to deny the Gold Coast outside back, but after building consistent pressure on the Sharks goal line, Tyrone Peachey crossed to send the ‘home' side to the sheds up 18-10.
Needing to be first to score after halftime, Gray crossed for his first try in almost two years in the 48th minute to narrow the margin to four points, before making it a double ten minutes later to draw the scores level at 18-all with Kyle Flanagan missing both shots at goal.
With the match headed for a grandstand finish, Flanagan produced the biggest moment of his young career to convert a penalty goal with seven minutes remaining to put the visitors up 20-18.
Despite the best efforts of the Titans to regain possession from a short-restart, the Sharks managed the closing stages to perfection, before captain Paul Gallen - making his final appearance at Suncorp Stadium - scored a try and nailed the final conversion on fulltime to claim an important 26-18 victory.
In a minor disappointment given the build up to Magic Round, only 17,113 supporters were in attendance on Thursday night - just the eighth time Suncorp Stadium has drawn a crowd under 20,000 since being redeveloped in the early 2000s.
Next week, the Titans face the Bulldogs in a must-win encounter at home on Saturday afternoon, while the Sharks face the Sea Eagles on Sunday afternoon at PointsBet Stadium.
Gold Coast Titans 18 - Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 26
Venue: Suncorp Stadium
Halftime Score: Gold Coast Titans 18 Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 10
LeagueUnlimited.com Players of the Match:
3 points - Paul Gallen
2 points - Josh Morris
1 points - Braden Hamlin-uele
GOLD COAST TITANS (18)
Tries: Dale Copley, Alexander Brimson, Tyrone Peachey
Conversions: Michael Gordon (3/3)
CRONULLA-SUTHERLAND SHARKS (26)
Tries: Josh Morris (2), Aaron Gray (2), Paul Gallen
Conversions: Kyle Flanagan (1/4), Paul Gallen (1/1)
Penalty Goals: Kyle Flanagan (1/1)