Titans to test Sharks patchy home NRL form
Cronulla's NRL clash with Gold Coast looms as a stern test of the defending premiers' questionable form at home.
Cronulla are looking to re-establish home-ground supremacy in their NRL match against Gold Coast, with coach Shane Flanagan admitting their Shark Park edge had been lost during an early-season form slump.
The defending premiers are gunning for five-straight wins on Saturday, but their patchy form at Southern Cross Stadium will be tested by a Titans outfit, boosted by the likely returns of Jarryd Hayne, Konrad Hurrell and Kevin Proctor from injury.
The Sharks have won one of three home games this season, their only success a one-point victory in round five over last-placed Newcastle.
Flanagan believes stage fright in front of an expectant Cronulla faithful wasn't to blame, rather a slow start to 2017 due to an interrupted pre-season.
"It's hard to put your finger on it, but we didn't start great the season. Maybe the UK trip took a little bit out of us getting going again," he said ahead of the round-eight clash.
"I think they trained really well in the off-season, the short period we had, but we didn't start well.
"But we're back to where we think we need to be now."
Flanagan is wary of a Titans attack ranked third best in the league - despite the club sitting second last on the ladder. Gold Coast threw everything at Brisbane last week to almost come up with an unlikely comeback victory.
The visitors have a strong recent record in Cronulla, winning two of their past three games.
They also snapped the Sharks' 15-game unbeaten run last year with an epic 18-18 draw.
But they will be met with a brick wall in the form of the Sharks' defensive line, which hasn't conceded a try in 160 minutes in wins over Melbourne and Penrith, while a plan to deal with the threat of Hayne from fullback has been put in place.
Flanagan identified halves Kane Elgey and Ash Taylor, and hooker Nathan Peats, as the Titans' biggest threats.
"They're a really good attacking team, the Titans. That's where we need to focus again this weekend, on our defence, and I'm sure we can score a couple of tries," Flanagan said.
"Their two halves are really good, young kids. Throw Peats in there at hooker, he's been out for a while, and I think that affected some of their early-season form.
"Their nine, seven, six and one are back together."
Veteran forward Luke Lewis is under an injury cloud for the third-placed Sharks after pulling up with hamstring tightness at training.
STATS THAT MATTER:
* The past eight matches between these two sides have been decided by 10 points or less
* The Sharks have not conceded a try for the past two matches, for the first time since round 21-22 in 1994
* The Titans have conceded the most points (29.4) per game in 2017
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