Almanac Rugby League – NRL Round 8: Cronulla v Gold Coast – Let’s push things forward


Cronulla Sharks  12    Gold Coast Titans  16

7:30 pm, Saturday 22nd April

Shark Park, Sydney

Paul Macadam


On Saturday night, the Gold Coast Titans played as though the fate of their season hinged on the result. Because it did. You can just about recover from two wins in your first eight. The last team to make the finals after slumping to one win in eight was Brisbane in 1999. Combative as the visitors were, Cronulla once again became the victims of their own complacency. The 2016 Sharks found ways into matches that were getting away from them. The 2017 Sharks – at least at home – are finding ways out of matches they look on course to win comfortably. There’s no way to spin it without conceding that they’ve put in four consecutive poor showings at Shark Park.


Maybe the crowd isn’t helping with their expectation of routine wins. But the players can’t afford to have any such mindset.  It’s telling that the most consistent performers so far this season – Luke Lewis and Paul Gallen – are amongst those most acutely aware of how rare premiership-winning opportunities can be. The absence of Lewis led to a shortage leadership on the night, not just one of metre-gaining. I’m not privy to training sessions or dressing rooms, so I’ll keep speculation to a minimum. It just looks as though too many players are still a little too comfortable with last year’s achievements.


I’ve thought for awhile that the lengths of time players are required to stand on field during ANZAC Day rituals must make it harder to begin the game in full swing. Even allowing for that, the Sharks start dismally. Penalty, error, penalty, Titans try. Leutele’s effort involves tonnes of guts and graft, though it papers over a puzzling bluntness in attack. That was the third or fourth set in a row, and his teammates hadn’t appeared likely to score until he did. 6-4 up with 25 gone, Gold Coast realise they have no reason to be fearful. The Sharks finish the half far stronger. Got a lucky break with the penalty try – players are held back from pursuing kicks all the time without punishment – but a lead is warranted once they resist a spell of pressure at the end. A rough call can severely knock the confidence of a struggling team. Score next, and their heads will go. I keep saying it and thinking it all through the break. Get to 16-6 and we’ll cruise this.


Instead they return from the sheds as though it’s a foregone conclusion. Something is lost in translation from the team talk; “stay patient” becomes “it’s bound to happen”. There’s the pressure part of the equation in the form of repeat sets, but no incision. Holmes draws a penalty from a Hayne high tackle. (Val’s threatening kick returns were a positive to draw from a night of frustration). Townsend’s kick misses touch. You’d be served a spray for that at several levels lower than first grade. Cronulla compound the error by giving a penalty straight back. Nine is far too many. Discipline must improve soon. The injury to Bukuya, who’s been in excellent form, is another blow alongside the Segeyaro setback.


When Ash Taylor can’t convert Leivaha Pulu’s first try, my first reaction is one of relief. But if scores go level, the worst has already happened. Possibly the Sharks wake up; certainly it turns into a field-goal shootout. As it happened, the Titans are inspired by the urgency of the situation. That try had been coming, and with the frequency of our missed tackles (38 to 27, despite making 50 fewer), it feels as though there’s another on the way. Yep. The video referee should notice that Ryan Simpkins is within 10 metres of the play, and therefore offside. The halfback ought to fall on the loose ball. But what really costs the game is the profligacy from minutes 41 to 60. Pass up a chance to be ruthless in this competition, and don’t be shocked when it costs you.


Never one for word-mincing, Gallen admitted his side showed the Gold Coast a lack of respect. Perhaps I did too; what with my not knowing who Leivaha Pulu was until his name was called over the tannoy. A 26 minute wait for a train back to Sutherland capped off a pretty grim night. Flanagan alluded to problems with his team’s attitude. You can’t only lift to your highest level for big occasions. It’s all the lower-key ones in between that define your ladder position.


Two aways coming up. Might be a blessing in disguise. I’d have taken five and three approaching the end of April, but the way we’ve lost the three makes some degree of anger justified. You’re not alone. They’ll be even angrier. I can’t go to Leichhardt but I hope you have a joyous night if you do.


There’s no excuses, my friend. Let’s push things forward. C’mon Sharks. No more messing around.


Gold Coast Titans 16 (Leivaha Pulu 2, Tyrone Roberts tries; Ash Taylor 2 goals) defeated Cronulla Sharks 12 (Ricky Leutele, Jayson Bukuya tries; James Maloney 2 goals). Crowd: 12 397.

About Paul Macadam

Songwriter under my own name, drummer for Library Siesta. Newly ecstatic Cronulla tragic who also loves Liverpool because life wasn't meant to be easy. Too slow for the wing, too skinny for the second row.

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