The Aquis Titans have sounded a warning to the NRL’s frontrunners after securing a nail-biting 18-18 draw against the high flying Sharks in golden point extra time at Cbus Super Stadium.
Gold Coast’s heroics while battling a series of injuries sent a mighty shockwave throughout the competition after all but toppling the visitors who were chasing a 16th straight win.
Three consecutive tries in 20 minutes gave the home side belief they could cause the upset of the round in front of the 14,918 crowd.
But when Andrew Fifita scored to level at 18-18 with seven minutes of regular time remaining it set up a thrilling climax.
Sharks half James Maloney had three unsuccessful field goal shots while the Titans missed a series of their own in extra time as the two fierce combatants fought to the end.
Outside back Josh Hoffman ensured the Titans gained a premiership point when, with Cronulla chasers advancing, he dived on a loose ball near his own tryline with seconds remaining.
Lock Greg Bird was a lion for the Titans, credited with more 200m run metres and 33 tackles while Zeb Taia also had a powerful game.
The meeting with the top-ranked Sharks was the best possible examination of Gold Coast’s title credentials.
The Titans held seventh place regardless of the outcome but a victory would heap more pressure on the sixth-placed Brisbane Broncos.
Leading into the match defence had been the biggest concern on the mind of coach Neil Henry.
Those worries were realised when the home side trailed 12-0 after 30 minutes.
Two tries to the Sharks, the second just a minute after fullback David Mead was sent to the sin bin for a professional foul, was the visitors’ reward for their early dominance.
Cronulla’s right side was humming and their middle forwards’ offloading was another source of concern.
But even with 12 men the Titans fought to stay in touch and were right in the hunt at halftime.
Second-rower Chris McQueen, who had earlier been held up across the line, seized his opportunity to put the Titans on the scoreboard.
He swooped on a loose ball spilled after Sosaia Feki failed to defuse a towering cross-field bomb from Ashley Taylor.
Mead’s return to the field just after halftime coincided with the Titans’ fightback.
Taylor put the side within striking distance of Cronulla’s tryline when his offload released Konrad Hurrell on a 40m bust.
Just seconds later Mead scored off a beautifully timed and concealed pass from Tyrone Roberts to draw level at 12-12.
Tighter defence and improved discipline from the Gold Coast was paying enormous dividends, as they built enough possession to apply enormous pressure on the Sharks.
The Titans grabbed the lead for the first time when winger Anthony Don finished off in the corner after a fluent right-side play.
Gold Coast’s next assignment is at home against the Warriors on Sunday.
AQUIS TITANS 18 (Chris McQueen, David Mead, Anthony Don tries; Tyrone Roberts 3 goals) drew with SHARKS 18 (Valentine Holmes, Jack Bird, Andrew Fifita tries; James Maloney 3 goals) at Cbus Super Stadium.