One side was tipped to fight it out for another top-four finish, the other many had pinned as their wooden spoon favourites. Despite those predictions, both the Sharks and the Titans find themselves in relatively similar positions, sitting on three wins apiece just outside the eight.
Both clubs have been cruelled by injury and the past few weeks have been more about fielding a full 17 then working on combinations. For the Titans, they were outdone by a hurting Cowboys side last weekend in Townsville, while Cronulla overcame adversity to defeat the high-flying Panthers. If either club wants to get their 2018 campaign back on track, then this is the game to do it.
2017 - Round 19 - Titans 30 def. Sharks 10 at Cbus Super Stadium
2017 - Round 8 - Titans 16 def. Sharks 12 at Southern Cross Group Stadium
2016 - Round 21 - Titans 18 drew Sharks 18 at Cbus Super Stadium
2016 - Round 6 - Sharks 25 def. Titans 20 at Southern Cross Group Stadium
2015 - Round 10 - Sharks 23 def. Titans 22 at Cbus Super Stadium
The Titans have proved themselves a bogey team for the Sharks with wins in their past three meetings. The only two times the Sharks have beaten the Gold Coast, they've scraped home - winning by a try or less on each occasion. The Titans return home for their first game on the Gold Coast since Round 1 - it must be welcome relief to know they'll play in front of their own fans instead of a parochial crowd in the Shire.
|1|| Michael Gordon||Josh Dugan|
|2||Anthony Don||Edrick Lee|
|3||Brendan Elliot||Jesse Ramien|
|4||Konrad Hurrell||Ricky Leutele|
|5||Phillip Sami||Valentine Holmes|
|6||Bryce Cartwright||Matt Moylan|
|7||Ash Taylor||Chad Townsend|
|8||Jarrod Wallace||Andrew Fifita|
|9||Mitch Rein||Jayden Brailey|
|10||Ryan James (C)||Matt Prior|
|11||Kevin Proctor||Scott Sorensen|
|12||Will Matthews||Wade Graham (C)|
|13||Jai Arrow||Joseph Paulo|
|14||Max King||Jayson Bukuya|
|15||Jack Stockwell||James Segeyaro|
|16||Keegan Hipgrave||Ava Seumanufagai|
|17||Morgan Boyle||Kurt Dillon|
|18||Brenko Lee||Kurt Capewell|
|19||Ryan Simpkins||Jack Williams|
|20||Alexander Brimson||Braden Uele|
|21||Kane Elgey||Trent Hodkinson|
The facts that matter
It's fair to say that Bryce Cartwright hasn't had the happiest of transitions from Penrith to the Glitter Strip. Having secured a release from the Panthers during the offseason, Cartwright followed former Penrith lower grade coach - Garth Brennan - north of the border. He's faced limited minutes coming off the bench and has failed to make much impact when on the field. That all changes this week, with Cartwright coming into the run on side in place of the relegated Kane Elgey.
Elgey has been dropped from the Titans top grade due to a combination of poor form and poor discipline meaning Cartwright gets his chance to cement a permanent position in the side. Playing as a middle forward in a Titans pack that relies on brute strength rather than fancy footwork, Cartwright's trademark creativity has suffered. While he's attempted to spark the Titans with his customary offloads, he hasn't had the players around him with that same 'attack at all costs' mindset.
When Luke Lewis went down after just five minutes in their clash against the Panthers, things looked dire for the Sharks. Already missing Paul Gallen, the Sharks depth was about to be tested. Up stepped a forward pack lacking in experience but not enthusiasm. Youngster Scott Sorenson played a massive game in the second row, and his try in the first half was just reward for a performance that saw him amass a line break, line break assist and 6 tackle busts. Luke Lewis succumbs to that same calf strain and won't line up against the Titans this week, but in good news for the Sharks, they welcome back skipper Wade Graham. Graham's presence is timely, both for the Sharks and for his chances at snaring a Blues jersey. After missing the past two weeks because of a hamstring complaint, Graham will want to make up for lost time and should be primed for a big showing here.
The Sharks must be flying high after knocking off a Panthers outfit in red-hot form. They face another week without key forwards Luke Lewis and Paul Gallen so depth may prove an issue. In good news for Sharks fans, Moylan looks to be finding his feet in the five-eighth role and Josh Dugan is looking more comfortable each game he plays.
While the Titans have surprised with wins over Manly and the Broncos, they've also put together some wholly underwhelming performances. Their recent form line of two losses doesn't bode well and although home-ground advantage levels the clash slightly, there are signs that the Sharks are finally clicking. Cronulla to get up by 10.
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