The Sharks have secured their fourth win of the 2016 season – and their third consecutive – notching a 25 points to 20 victory over a gallant Gold Coast Titans.
Leading 14 points to nil early, the Sharks were forced to work for the two competition points, met by a resistant Titans effort as the match was settled in the dying stages.
Fullback Ben Barba set the Sharks on their way with a dashing effort to cross for the first try of the afternoon.
In scooping up a James Maloney knock back, the lightning-quick Barba saw only daylight in front of him, and in evading the late efforts of Titans winger Nene Macdonald, crossed for the opening points.
Maloney, in looking to add the extra two, couldn’t do so – hitting the posts as the score remained at four-nil early doors.
In what was a cracking start for the hosts, Sosaia Feki crossed for points soon after, when he collected an inch-perfect pass from Wade Graham to touch down in the South-Eastern corner of Southern Cross Group Stadium.
Again Maloney would be denied by the post upon looking to convert the try.
With the Sharks full of running and buoyed by the backing of a 11,753-strong home crowd, the Titans looked devoid of all answers when Matt Prior crossed for the side’s third try inside the opening quarter.
Valentine Holmes stepped up to slot the conversion in Maloney’s absence – the five-eighth withdrawn from the contest following a head knock from the Titans’ Greg Bird.
With the score at 14-nil in favour of the hosts, Maloney was ruled out of the game having failed a concussion test – and the momentum of the match soon swung in favour of the Titans.
Trailing by more than two converted tries, the Gold Coast’s Nene Macdonald got his side back into the contest when he collected a stray offload from Chad Townsend and streak away to score.
Just moments later, the Titans’ debutant pivot in Cam Cullen found another try – with his inside man Ash Taylor taking his personal tally to four points having kicked two goals from as many attempts.
Returning from the sheds with Flanagan’s words no doubt still ringing in their ears, the Sharks were again caught surprised by the Titans, when Ash Taylor snuck in to score the Titans third consecutive try.
The diminutive half made a bird of the conversion, sending the Titans to an 18-14 lead with half an hour to play.
Needing a hero, the Sharks found one in Andrew Fifita – playing a man short, the hard-running forward was immense throughout the afternoon, and he was rewarded with a try in the 57th minute.
Holmes slotted the goal to send the Sharks to a 20-18 lead, but the Titans were far from finished.
Posing a constant threat, the visitors continued to ask plenty of questions of the Sharks defence – but spurred on by a parochial crowd, the hosts shifted into another gear.
A Fifita bust with near on a quarter of the match remaining had the side in good position for points once more, but unable to capitalise, the Titans would soon after earn a penalty and level the scores at 20.
With 11 minutes to play, Chad Townsend sought the front and he found it in the form of a field goal, sending the Sharks to a 21-20 lead with the clock ticking down.
And, as he so often did throughout 2015, Valentine Holmes made his presence felt in the big moments – pulling a finish right out of the top drawer to touch down and send the Sharks to a 5-point front.
The winger finished off a well-worked backline play to score from what is quickly becoming a trademark diving effort, rounding out the last of the points on an exciting afternoon in the Shire.
CRONULLA SHARKS – 25
Tries: Barba, Feki, Prior, Fifita, Holmes | Goals: Maloney (0/2), Holmes (2/3), Townsend (1/1 Field Goal)
DEF. GOLD COAST TITANS – 20
Tries: Macdonald, Cullen, Taylor | Goals: Taylor (4/4)