The Aquis Titans have been beaten in yet another ‘down to the wire’ clash with Cronulla Sharks.
The Titans fought back from 14-0 down to take an 18-14 lead midway through the second half but a field goal by Sharks five-eighth Chad Townsend and a try in the right corner by winger Valentine Holmes with nine minutes remaining got the Sharks home in yet another cliff-hanger between the two sides.
The Titans had the worst possible start with a runaway try by Ben Barba in the sixth minute after the Titans were attacking their line.
William Zillman kicked to the right corner and Anthony Don batted the ball back and it appeared James Maloney fumbled forward before he put Barba away. Nene Macdonald chased hard and was just about to reel Barba in but was wrong footed and Barba scored.
Play was sent back to the bunker and it was ruled Maloney had no knocked on and the try stood for the Sharks to get a 4-0 early lead.
In the 13th minute again the play went from the Sharks’ tryline to the Titans end, this time on the back of a penalty for an alleged crusher tackle by Nene Macdonald on Wade Graham.
Andrew Fifita came up with an offload near the Titans line and the Sharks quickly shifted to the left and a long ball saw Sosaia Feki run to the left corner to score.
Maloney’s conversion hit the right upright for the second time and the Sharks held an 8-0 lead.
The Sharks were in for their third try when back-rower Matt Prior scored from close to the line, shaking out of three tacklers. Maloney went to the head bin after a heavy knock from Greg Bird which was also put on report. He did not return.
In Maloney’s absence, Valentine Holmes kicked the conversion for 14-0.
Nene Macdonald took advantage of a floppy Chad Townsend pass, intercepted and ran 80 metres to score next to the posts, holding off Ben Barba in pursuit. Ash Taylor converted to bring the Titans back in the game at 14-6.
Then came a very special try on debut from five-eighth Cameron Cullen. He put a left foot step on Luke Lewis from 20 metres out, straightened up accelerated and took on the defence near the line and wriggled out of the clutches of two defenders to get over the line.
It was a crucial play and Ash Taylor converted to make it 14-12 eight minutes before half-time. The score remained unchanged at the break.
Six minutes into the second it was the other halfback, Taylor, who decided to have crack close to the line. He dummied hard then decided to take the line on, which he has done only few times, and split Wade Graham and Paul Gallen to score a great try.
Taylor converted to give the Titans the lead after 18 unanswered points.
The Sharks regained the lead through a neat grubber from Michael Ennis for Anthony Fifita under the posts after the Sharks had gained possession from a Titans error in their own half. Valentine converted for a 20-18 lead.
Soon after came a crucial call on Greg Bird. He followed through a Cullen bomb and smashed Barba and the crowd called for a penalty and even a send-off. But replays showed Barba’s foot had hit the ground and the penalty went the Titans way for a Sharks player receiving the ball off Barba in an offside position.
Taylor kicked the goal to level the scores with 14 minutes to play.
Andrew Fifita had the ball stripped in the tackle by Ryan James straight after the kick off and the penalty saw the Sharks go upfield. In the next set Holmes was in the right corner, just planting the ball as Zillman drove into his ribs on the touchline.
Holmes missed the conversion so the score was 25-20 with eight minutes remaining.
The Sharks looked like they had sealed the match when Gerard Beale crossed after Cullen lost the ball in heavy contact 20m from the Titans line but replays showed he was tackled high and the initial call of try by referee Grant Atkins was overturned.
The game went down to the last play of the game when Taylor chipped off the inside of his boot for Agnatius Paasi but the Sharks were able to push the ball dead.
Cronulla Sharks 25 (Barba, Feki, Prior, Fifita, Holmes tries; Holmes 2 goals, Townsend field goal) def. Titans 20 (Macdonald, Cullen, Taylor tries; Taylor 4 goals) at Southern Cross Group Stadium. Crowd: 11,743.