Sharks slump to another NRL loss at hands of Titans

Scott Bailey |

Craig Fitzgibbon insists Cronulla’s season is not in a critical condition, despite the Sharks slumping to their fifth defeat in six games with a 20-16 loss to Gold Coast.

After again starting slowly and finding themselves 14-0 down just after halftime, the Sharks clawed back to within four points late on Friday night.

But ultimately they were unable to make up enough ground to claim victory in Coffs Harbour, as the  lowly ranked Titans held on for their fifth win of 2024.

First on the NRL ladder six weeks ago, Cronulla are now dangerously close to following in the footsteps of South Sydney from last season.

In a worst-case scenario Fitzgibbon’s men will finish the weekend in fourth spot, and could be as few as three points clear of ninth place.

“It’s not crucial yet, we’re still sitting in a strong position,” Fitzgibbon said. 

Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon.
Coach Craig Fitzgibbon says the Sharks are still in reasonable shape, despite recent losses. (Mark Evans/AAP PHOTOS)

“But what is crucial is we have to start to address it, otherwise it will be. There are a lot of parts to like. 

“We’re not shying away from it, we’re going after it and getting into the fight.”

Cronulla were behind the game from the outset on Friday, as errors, penalties and set restarts handed the Titans the first 25 play-the-balls of the match.

Kieran Foran scored late in that sequence, before the veteran also put Chris Randall through a hole in the middle for Gold Coast’s second while Cronulla’s Siosifa Talakai was in the sin bin for a shoulder charge.

In contrast, the Sharks couldn’t take their chances.

Royce Hunt dropped a ball just short of the tryline,  Jack Williams fumbled another on attack, and Nicho Hynes had a ball for Jesse Ramien called forward.

Fitzgibbon was also left to question why Will Kennedy was denied, when he put a ball down on Titans fullback Keano Kini’s outstretched leg and foot.

There was further drama after the match, when it was revealed referee Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski called last tackle on play too early on a Cronulla attacking set early in the second half.

“I didn’t know you were allowed to lead with your feet,” Fitzgibbon said of the denied Kennedy try. 

“Nicho’s forward pass … didn’t know it was a forward pass, but it’s happened a few weeks in a row now. 

“That’s what happens when you’re uptight and the energy is going the wrong way.”

Hynes, for his part, had an improved second half with the spotlight still on him.

Nicho Hynes (left).
Nicho Hynes (left) had a solid game for the Sharks, scoring a try and having a hand in two others. (Shane Myers/AAP PHOTOS)

The Titans made a clear point to target the Sharks half, forcing him to make 18 tackles in defence as he held his own.

He also helped create the space in the lead-up to Cronulla’s first two tries, with Briton Nikora offloading for one and Braydon Trindall putting on a lofted ball for another.

And while he spilled a ball in broken play that could have helped the Sharks come back, the No.7 was on the spot to score after Ronaldo Mulitalo and Kennedy combined on the previous tackle.

That gave the Sharks four minutes to try to steal the game, before they again fell short.

David Fifita was solid for Gold Coast in his bid to win back a Queensland State of Origin jersey, as Billy Slater weighs up his side for the July 17 decider.

“He’s got to be in the picture,” Titans coach Des Hasler said. 

“His footy the last six weeks has been pretty strong. He might have a couple of mates with him. 

“Mo (Fotuaika) will be there again, but Beau Fermor I think has also been playing really strong footy as well.”