Crucial errors and injuries after the Titans seemed to be controlling the match at 14-0 up to three minutes before half-time proved costly in the golden point heartache against the Sharks.
Leading 14-4 at half-time and 16-4 soon after the Titans lost right winger David Mead with a hamstring injury, pushing David Taylor to right centre and James Roberts to the wing. With 15 minutes to go and the Titans leading 18-16, left centre William Zillman went off with a knee injury and Daniel Mortimer had to play centre with another little man Kane Elgey inside him.
And only three minutes later Nate Myles was removed from the field with concussion and could not return, meaning the side had only Matt White on the bench in reserve and captain (Myles) and vice-captain (Zillman) missing.
Stand-in skipper Luke Douglas elected to receive the extra-time kick-off after winning the toss but it meant starting the period with possession but beginning the first set on the tryline and the Titans could not gain 30 metres from their five tackles and the Sharks returned an Aidan Sezer kick to start their set 40 metres better off. In their first set winger Valentine Holmes landed the field goal to break the Titans’ hearts.
A kick dead in goal from the kick-off, two kick charge downs and a couple of crucial dropped balls gave the Sharks the chance to build momentum, possession and pressure in the second half. In the wash-up the Sharks’ three tries came in the set after a dropped ball taking the ball out of the Titans end, straight after a penalty for a leg pull and a dropped bomb in an otherwise spirited Titans’ performance with the forced reshuffles due to injury.
It was a great pass from Elgey to Anthony Don, who called the play in a carbon-copy of a try-creating play two rounds earlier against the Warriors and which won Elgey the ‘play of the day’ award after the match, which put the score back to 22-all after the Sharks had led for the first time in the 71st minute. Elgey was also responsible for two great kicks from near halfway that trapped the Sharks in goal.
James was again strong, to push his claims to be picked in the NSW side chosen on Monday, Lachlan Burr was tireless in attack and defence, and it great to see Ben Ridge, a late change to the side replacing Mark Ioane on the bench, rewarded for the determined training effort in rehab/prehab since tearing a pectoral muscle in the mid-February trial against the Warriors.
Ridge’s previous NRL game and match-experience in the middle of the Cbus Super Stadium was round 15 of 2014 last June when he was knocked out cold and suffered a shoulder injury that ended his season in a sickening site. He performed really solidly with 19 tackles in his 52 minutes to put that behind him.
COMPLETIONS: Titans 28/36 (78%), Sharks 27/37 (73%)
TRIES: Sharks 4, Titans 3,
LINE-BREAKS: Titans 5, Sharks 3,
OFFLOADS: Sharks 15, Titans 6
TACKLES: Sharks 308, Titans 294,
MISSED TACKLES: Titans 32, Sharks 19
METRES GAINED: Sharks 1360, Titans 1538
METRES: Taylor 163 (12), Burr 155 (15), Pettybourne 149 (17), Douglas 138 (14), Myles 128 (11)
TACKLES: Burr 43, Douglas 32, Moseley 32, Mortimer 26, Myles 22
LINE BREAKS: Hoffman, Don, James, Taylor, Burr
MINUTES (forwards): Ryan James, Lachlan Burr 82; Dave Taylor 66, Ben Ridge 52, Eddy Pettybourne 52, Daniel Mortimer 51, Luke Douglas 49; Kierran Moseley 48, Nate Myles 38, Matthew White 25.