90 minutes of football couldn’t separate the Titans and the Sharks in a Monday night Golden Point blockbuster which could go down as a contender for match of the season.
The Titans went into the match trying to end the Sharks 15-match winning streak without experienced hooker Nathan Peats, but utilities Ryan Simpkins and Cameron Cullen controlled the ruck well against the big Sharks forward pack.
Simpkins and Cullen shared the dummy-half role and produced some big efforts throughout the contest. Simpkins played for 52 minutes racking up 27 tackles while Cullen filled in the hooking and halves roles for 49 minutes.
It was always going to be a tough ask in the middle and against his former club, Greg Bird stood-up for the Titans taking the battle to the Sharks representative pack running for 266 metres and making 34 tackles.
Encouraged on by Bird’s performance Zeb Taia, Chris McQueen and Ryan James followed suit and played big minutes to get through high work-rates.
The Titans outside backs also assisted with Konrad Hurrell and Nene Macdonald starting the sets well coming out of our end, with Hurrell running for 192 metres – third highest for the Titans.
A turning point come in the 30th minute with David Mead sent to the sin-bin for impeding Michael Ennis from a try-scoring opportunity. Following the penalty, the Sharks crossed out-wide to take a 12-0 lead with winger Valentine Holmes grabbing his 16th try of the season.
But despite being one-man down, the Titans hit-back before the break through Chris McQueen to reduce the half-time deficit back to 12-6.
With the momentum from scoring the late try the Titans went back-to-back through Mead and Anthony Don to take a lead going into the final stanza of the match. With the try, Don levelled his wing-counterpart Macdonald as the club’s leading try-scorer on 9 and halfback Tyrone Roberts converted to bring up his 500th career point.
The Sharks got the late try through Andrew Fifita to send the match into Golden Point. Following the try there was a bit of push-and-shove which ensured for a fiery finish to the match.
Both side’s traded field-goal attempts with Ash Taylor for the Titans and James Maloney the go-to kickers both unable to get the ball over the black-dot and ending the match as a draw, the first in the Titans NRL history.
The Titans continued their high completion rates with an overall completion rate of 79 and completing at 94% for the first-half.
With the draw, the Titans take a one-point buffer to stay in seventh position on 23 points ahead of New Zealand Warriors, Penrith Panthers and Wests Tigers.
The confidence from taking it to premiership favourites will certainly assist Neil Henry’s men as they make a charge into their first finals’ series since 2010 and the team will need to be on their best when they take on the Warriors at Cbus Super on Sunday.
KEY MATCH STATS
POSSESSION: Titans 48%, Sharks 52%
COMPLETION RATE: Titans 79% (29/39), Sharks 84% (37/44)
ERRORS: Titans 7, Sharks 7.
TACKLES: Titans 369 (missed 37), Sharks 363 (missed 30)
OFFLOADS: Titans 12, Sharks 15.
LINE BREAKS: Titans 3, Sharks 4
PENALTIES CONCEDED: Titans 11, Sharks 6.
TOP TACKLERS: Ryan James 54, Chris McQueen 36, Greg Bird 34, Agnatius Paasi 31, Luke Douglas 31, Ryan Simpkins 27
TOP METRE MAKERS: Greg Bird 266, Zeb Taia 226, Konrad Hurrell 192, Agnatius Paasi 137, Ryan James 123, Nene Macdonald 114, Josh Hoffman 100
HIT-UPS/RUNS: Greg Bird 27, Zeb Taia 23, Konrad Hurrell 16, Ryan James 15, Nene Macdonald 12, Anthony Don 12
TOP MINUTES (forwards): Taia 90, Bird 90, McQueen 75, James 62, Simpkins 52, Paasi 5, Cullen 49, Pulu 34