The Gold Coast Titans under-20s side have suffered a hard-fought 18-16 defeat at the hands of the Cronulla Sharks at Cbus Super stadium this afternoon.
After taking an early 10-0 lead the young Titans conceded three successive tries to go into the half-time break trailing 18-10.
The Titans started the second-half the stronger of the two sides and managed to keep the Sharks attacking opportunities at bay before Deacon Fletcher crossed to get the Titans back in the game to trail 18-16 into the final 20 minutes.
In a gutsy display the Titans received a penalty in front of the posts in the 75th minute and opted to take the tap and go for the win, but some heavy defence by the Sharks forced an error and they managed to hold the Titans out.
After mounting early pressure by forcing repeat sets, it was the Titans who opened the scoring through centre Josh Berkers who forced his way across the line before Jed Cartwright added the extras for an early 6-0 lead.
The Titans went back-to-back with Brian Kelly finishing off some quality backline play to dive across the line and extend the lead out to 10-0 after 13 minutes.
The Sharks hit back in the 16th minute when centre Tuli Leota sliced through the line to score untouched. With fullback Ryan Cummins converting the Titans lead was reduced to 10-6.
With the momentum swinging in their favour, the Sharks capitalised through Jayden Brailey who barged his way across the line before Cummins added the extras to give the Sharks a 12-10 lead after 26 minutes.
The Sharks continued their dominance in the back end of the half with Jaden Clarke cleaning up the scraps of a loose grubber kicks to score under the posts giving Cummins an easy conversion and the visitors an 18-10 half-time lead.
After the match turned into an arm-wrestle it took some individual brilliance by Deacon Fletcher to break the deadlock with the utility half dummying his way through the line to score. With Cartwright adding the extras the Titans trailed 18-16 with 20 minutes remaining.
The Titans looked to have taken the lead in the 68th minute when Cartwright took on the line before getting an offload away to Tevita Folau, but the pass was ruled to go forward. The Titans copped a further blow with Cartwright being forced from the field.
The Titans had an opportunity to tie the match-up after receiving a penalty in front of the posts in the 75th minute but opted to take the tap and go after the win, but were unable to crack the Sharks defensive line and were forced to concede the 18-16 loss.
The young Titans have the bye next week but will look to strike back in a fortnight when they take on the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Cbus Super Stadium.
Cronulla Sharks 18 (T Leota, J Brailey, J Clarke tries; R Cummins 3 goals) defeated Gold Coast Titans 16 (J Berkers, B Kelly, D Fletcher tries; J Cartwright 2 goals)