Sharks claim a ‘Golden’ draw
The Sharks winning streak came to an end but their unbeaten run continued as they played out an 18-all draw with the Gold Coast Titans at CBus Stadium.
It was a physical encounter where the two teams would have to be content with one competition point but at the same time disappointed they didn’t take their opportunities at crucial times.
For a time all looked lost for the Sharks but after battling back from a second half deficit they managed to send the game into overtime and had most of the running in the extra 10 minute period, but in the end it wasn’t to be, with a handful of field goal and scoring chances going begging.
They led early, were for a time out-enthused by the Titans as the Gold Coast gained the ascendency, but as they have done all season the Sharks showed plenty of character to almost pull off a win against a committed finals contender on their home turf.
The Sharks were first on the board when they rolled out their patented backline move, again worked perfectly with the end result seeing Ben Barba throwing the final pass for Valentine Holmes to cross for his 16th four-pointer of the season.
James Maloney slotted the sideline conversion and the Sharks had a 6-0 lead 10 minutes into the contest.
The next 15 minutes saw the play dominated by the visiting team but it took a sin-binning of Titans fullback David Mead for a professional foul to open up some space for the Sharks to again work some attacking magic.
This time the ball didn’t quite get as far as Holmes, with his centre partner Jack Bird crashing through a tackle from his opposite Josh Hoffman before planting the ball down wide out.
Maloney’s conversion swung wide but at 12-0 the Sharks had the wind in their sails and all the momentum.
That proverbial ‘wind’ shifted back the way of the Titans however in the last 10 minutes of the half, with the Gold Coast clawing their way back into the match when Chris McQueen dived on a loose ball in the in-goal after an Ash Taylor bomb was spilled by the Sharks defense.
Tyrone Roberts added the extras and the two teams went to the break with the Sharks up by 12-6.
The try before half time gave the Titans plenty of belief and after defending a Sharks attacking raid at one end they would wind up 100 metres down the other end and it was Mead to score, just managing to get the ball down despite the best efforts of Barba.
Roberts again kicked truly and it was 12-all and game on with more than half an hour of the match remaining.
Now with possession heavily in their favour the Titans pressed again and after a Sharks drop out the home team would take their first lead of the night, centre Konrad Hurrell finding Anthony Don with a clever flick pass with the winger diving over in the corner.
Roberts had the radar well and truly working on the night and when his kick from inches in from touch sailed over the black dot it was 18-12 Titans and the Sharks had it all to do.
With time ticking all looked lost for the Sharks but showing great resolve they kept pressing and they were rewarded for their tenacity, with Maloney probing, finding Luke Lewis, before Andrew Fifita crashed over underneath the uprights.
The Maloney chip shot from in front made it was 18-all with time almost up.
Both teams had opportunities to tie it up in regulation but the siren sounded at 18-all, with extra time needed to determine a winner.
The energy picked up again in golden point and it was the Sharks who had all the running in the first five minute period, their best chance coming when a Maloney drop goal attempt clattered off the upright and bounced back into play.
The Sharks had a couple more opportunities but on this occasion it wasn’t to be, desperate defense and the referees reluctance to decide the game with their whistle seeing the deadlock remain as the teams took away one point each.
The point for the draw sees the Sharks retain top spot on the NRL ladder, one ahead of the Melbourne Storm with five matches remaining.
For the Sharks on the night Wade Graham was inspirational, especially in extra time where he tried to inspire his team, Barba was enterprising in the first half but had limted chances to shine in the second, while Bird and Holmes looked capable at times of doing something to tip the ledger in favour of their team.
The Sharks now have a short turn-around ahead of another tough challenge against the Canberra Raiders although it appeared they escaped without any injury concerns and should be at full strength for a match against the NRL's third-placed team.
Valentine Holmes, Jack Bird, Andrew Fifita tries, James Maloney 3 goals
Chris McQueen, David Mead, Anthony Don tries, Tyrone Roberts 3 goals