A steadily improving Gold Coast Titans side travelled to Jubilee Stadium to face a Cronulla Sharks side who needed a win to hold onto their tenuous hold on a finals spot.
After an early spell of dominance, it was the Titans who opened the scoring.
Ash Taylor collected the ball at first receiver and whipped a ball past two both Kevin Proctor and Brian Kelly out to Corey Thompson who was in open space and walked in for a try on the left edge.
Justin Holbrook’s side went close again through both Thompson and Proctor but the Sharks did enough to hold on.
In the 15th minute, Aaron Woods crashed over for the Sharks but Alexander Brimson got himself under the big prop-forward to deny a score under the posts.
Cronulla had begun to work themselves back into the game, and just a few minutes later, Woods pulled out a short wrap-around play to push the ball out to Wade Graham, who in turn released Josh Dugan to race 10-metres and cross on the left-wing.
Shaun Johnson converted from the touchline to level the scores.
The Sharks then took the lead in the 23rd minute.
Johnson skipped to the right-hand side, beat the tackle of Proctor and with just Brimson to beat popped the ball right to Siosifa Talakai to dive over.
On the half-hour mark, it looked as though Sione Katoa would dive over and score spectacularly in the corner but the winger couldn’t quite ground the ball in-goal area, and the score remained 12-6.
The Titans were awarded a set restart on the Sharks 10-metre line but a poor pass from Taylor out to Thompson did not work and the winger was bundled into touch by Ronaldo Mulitalo.
Things got a little worse for the Titans just a few minutes before half-time as Jai Arrow picked up a huge knock after a tackle from Talakai.
That wouldn’t stop the Titans from levelling up in the final minute of the half though.
Jarrod Wallace collected a short ball from Tyrone Peachey and busted through the tackles of Woods and Toby Rudolf to crash over and score.
HALF-TIME: Cronulla Sharks 12-12 Gold Coast Titans
The Titans worked hard to keep out the Sharks in the opening ten minutes of the second half and should have taken the lead themselves.
Brimson, Kelly and Thompson combined to get the Gold Coast to within 15-metres of the Cronulla line, but Peachey’s fifth tackle kick wasn’t quite gathered up by Proctor and the chance went begging for the visitors.
With 18 minutes remaining, Young Tunomaipea beat Katoa on the right-wing but couldn’t quite keep control of the ball in the grounding for yet another chance gone begging in the game.
With 25 minutes of the game remaining, Proctor was claimed to have bitten the arm of Shaun Johnson, and after a complaint and a clear view on video, Henry Perenara had no option but to send the second-rower off in his 250th game.
This is the first red card in the NRL since
With a man advantage, and the Titans in shock, Johnson’s kick to the corner was collected unchallenged on the dive by Katoa and the Sharks regained the lead.
Cronulla began walking them in from the hour mark.
Wade Graham picked up a short pass from Blayke Brailey, and despite a big effort from Jamal Fogarty, the Cronulla captain dotted down for their fourth of the game.
A quickfire third followed as Jack Williams managed to pick up a charged down a kick from Fogarty, beat the attempted tackles of Brimson and Tonumaipea and slammed the ball down.
The Titans continued to fight on though and with six minutes of the game remaining, Keegan Hipgrave was the recipient of a short pass from Fogarty and beat a number of tackles to crash over and pull a score back.
Taylor converted to make it 30-12 to Cronulla.
In the 78th minute, the Titans looked to go close once more but a kick along the floor was cleaned up by Jesse Ramien and the game was all but wrapped up.
Gold Coast had the ball in the final seconds but Fogarty’s kick was collected by Kennedy and the game.
FULL-TIME: Cronulla Sharks 30-18 Gold Coast Titans
Kennedy, Katoa, Dugan, Ramien, Mulitalo, Moylan, Johnson, Hamlin-Uele, Brailey, Woods, Talakai, Graham, Sorensen
Interchanges: Rudolf, Tracey, Williams, Hunt
Tries: Dugan, Talakai, Katoa, Graham, Williams
Goals: Johnson (3/3), Moylan (2/2)
Gold Coast Titans
Brimson, Thompson, Kelly, Copley, Tonumaipea, Taylor, Fogarty. Foruaika, Peats, Jolliffe, Proctor, Hipgrave, Arrow
Interchanges: Peachey, Wallace, Lisone, Fermor
Tries: Thompson, Wallace, Hipgrave
Goals: Taylor (3/3)
Red-Cards: Proctor (biting)
Referee: H. Perenara
Touch Judges: M. Noyen, J. Stone
Video Referee: B. Lowe
Image Source: @NRL (twitter)