After such a promising start to the season that saw two victories and a one-point loss, the depleted Titans under-20s have gone down to the previously winless Sharks 30-12 at Remondis Stadium in Sydney.
After opening the scoring in the 10th minute and looking constructive early, the Titans fell away with too many errors and poor defence around the ruck that saw some soft tries conceded.
They were without co-captain Shaun Hudson and forwards James Iodice and Nathan Watts who had been impressive in the first three rounds, but had enough depth and experience on the field. It was simply an uncustomary performance coming off a physical effort against Newcastle six days earlier that appeared to have taken some edge off the side.
Karl Lawton scored in the 10th minute after latching onto a break down the middle of the ruck, and Jed Cartwright converted from next to the posts to make it 6-0.
The Sharks replied in the 19th minute, on the back of a flow of possession, through an inside ball from dummy half to lock Francis Loloua-Tui. His try was converted by Jamayne Isaako.
The Sharks took the lead in the 25th minute through a second soft try from close to the line, this time on the right edge through Anthony Moriatis. It was converted again for 12-6. After being so solid and aggressive in defence against the Knights, it was a poor start for the Titans boys.
It was an unimpressive first half for the Titans with the intensity in defence of the previous three games not there and forward passes and dropped balls, or too much lateral attack, marring the first 40 minutes.
It took 22 minutes of the second half for the Sharks to extend the lead after the Titans had a run of possession and started to look a lot better, although too many times sets on the Sharks’ line ended fruitlessly.
Fullback Joshua Addo-Clark raced away from near the Sharks line to run 90 metres and score under the posts. Isaako had an easy kick to make it 24-6.
Roy Humphreys scored down the right wing with six minutes remaining and Cartwright kept his 100 per cent kicking record with a goal from the touchline. But that was a consolation with the Titans outplayed from the 10th minute mark in a disappointing effort that would have not pleased coach Ben Woolf after such a spirited start to the season.
The Titans' woes were further complicated with centre Christian Mika coming off with an ankle injury.
Cronulla Sharks 30 (Loloua-Tui, Moriatis, Tracey, Addo-Carr, Brailey tries; Isaako 5 goals) def. Gold Coast Titans 12 (Lawton, Humphreys tries; Cartwright 2 goals).