Sharks score first win of 2019

The first half showed glimpses of what they are capable of, the second 40 minutes was littered with far too many errors, but in the final wash-up it was an important two points for the Sharks as they notched their first win of the 2019 season.

The Sharks right hand side was lethal in the opening period, four tries in virtually the same spot on the field helping them to open up a commanding 20-0 lead. 

The second half however wouldn't go according to plan, with the Sharks still creating opportunities, only for the last pass to go astray as they repeatedly let their opponents off the hook. 

Combine that with injuries and a sin-binning and the Sharks were forced to fight their way to the finish, but despite a few anxious moments were able to hold on and give themselves something to build on in the coming weeks.  

The Titans looked dangerous early, first Ryan James was denied by the video referee, then only a matter of minutes later it was deemed that Jai Arrow had been held up over the line and the Sharks had dodged not one, but two bullets in the opening exchanges. 

The Gold Coast may have had the best of the opening exchanges however it would be the Sharks who were first to score, Sione Katoa, after putting his team on the attack following a long run down the western touchline, before the dashing winger was then on the end of a Shaun Johnson cut out pass to touch down wide out. 

Johnson’s conversion attempt from the sideline cannoned off the right upright and was unsuccessful and after 17 minutes of the first half the Sharks had a 4-0 lead. 

Finding space down their right hand side the Sharks went that way again and once more they were rewarded, a well-worked backline move putting Katoa over with the Sharks going up 8-0. 

Johnson was wide for a second time with his kick at goal however the Sharks had a handy 8-point break after 25 minutes. 

Jayden Brailey went off soon after for a head injury assessment, replaced by his brother Blayke, and shortly after his inclusion a mistimed Andrew Fifita pass was fumbled by the Titans and the Sharks were in again, Josh Dugan picking up the scraps, beating the cover and planting the ball down. 

Johnson kicked his first goal to give his side a 14-0 lead and the Sharks had their tails up. 

After scoring three tries down the right hand side the Sharks went there again and the result was a fourth four-pointer, this time young gun Briton Nikora running through an attempted tackle from Bryce Cartwright for his first try in the NRL. 

With his fourth kick from a similar angle Johnson added the extras with the Sharks up 20-0, a lead they would take to the half time break. 

While four tries in 40 minutes was a strong effort with the ball, coach John Morris would have been pleased his team was able to hold their opponents scoreless, repeatedly turning the Titans away with stern goal line defence. 

The Sharks began the second half in a similar fashion to the first with a long Nikora line break but it unfortunately came to nothing when the last pass was spilt and taking advantage of their let off, the Titans would be next to score. 

Exploiting the short side following a Jai Arrow charge was Brenko Lee, the big winger brushing off a couple of tacklers to score wide out. 

Back in familiar territory, former Shark Mick Gordon was on target from the touchline and it was 20 to 6 to the home side with 30 minutes of the match still remaining. 

Now making far too many errors the Sharks were forced to defend repeat sets on their line and a combination of ordinary Gold Coast attack and resolute defence from the Sharks saw the score remain unchanged.

With the elder Brailey unable to return, Sosaia Feki forced off and Nikora also off for a HIA, compounded by the sin-binning of Jayson Bukuya for what was deemed to be repeated fouls, and the Sharks were forced to showed plenty of resolve with still a quarter of the contest still remaining. 

Despite what were a few anxious moments for the 15,000-plus fans packed into Shark Park, the Cronulla side settled, led by composed efforts from senior players Chad Townsend, Josh Morris, Dugan and Aaron Woods, as they grinder out a positive result. 

As was the case in round one, too many mistakes with the football was again an area for concern for the Sharks, however the coach later expressed his satisfaction in the defensive effort of his team but at the same time was frustrated they had put themselves under undue pressure for large periods of the second half. 

The players player award went to winger Katoa for his sizzling performance on the right wing, while the Pontifex Jewellers Coaches award was won by back rower Nikora. 

The win was the first as an NRL head coach for Morris, while in a match of milestones, Townsend would chalk up 100 NRL games for the Cronulla club, with skipper Paul Gallen equalling the record of 328 games played for the Sharks. 

The Sharks now have seven days to get ready for a confrontation with the North Queensland Cowboys in Townsville next Saturday. 

 

SHARKS 20
Sione Katoa 2, Josh Dugan, Briton Nikora tries, Shaun Johnson 2 goals
beat
TITANS 6
Brenko Lee try, Michael Gordon goal

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