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Craig Fitzgibbon takes swipe at NRL bunker decision amid fan fury over Sharks sin bin drama

The Sharks coach questions a number of refereeing calls in the loss to the Titans.

Cronulla coach Craig Fitzgibbon has questioned a number of contentious calls and taken aim at the bunker after his side's 20-16 loss to Gold Coast in Coffs Harbour on Friday night. The Sharks' worrying mid-season form slump continued with a fifth defeat in six games that leaves them in danger of slipping down to fourth on the NRL ladder after round 18, despite leading the comp six weeks ago.

While Fitzgibbon wasn't happy with a number of calls that went against his side, others pointed out that Cronulla wrecking ball Siosifa Talakai was lucky not to be sent off for an ugly high shot on Titans hooker Sam Verrills in the first half. Talakai was sin-binned for 10 minutes after what looked like a shoulder charge to Verrills' head, in which he didn't really making any attempt to wrap his arms in the tackle.

Cronulla coach Craig Fitzgibbon questioned a number of decisions that went against his side as Sharks forward Siosifa Talakai was sin-binned against the Titans. Pic: Getty/Fox League
Cronulla coach Craig Fitzgibbon questioned a number of decisions that went against his side as Sharks forward Siosifa Talakai was sin-binned against the Titans. Pic: Getty/Fox League

On Saturday, the NRL match review committed ruled it as grade two dangerous contact and slapped the Sharks back-rower with a one-game ban if he takes the early plea. Many viewers thought Talakai should have been sent off for the remainder of the game, with the force of the contact from Talakai and the position where he made contact with Verrills probably the only thing that saved him.

“He hasn’t wrapped his arms there... wasn’t even an attempt,” Tigers legend Steve Roach said in commentary on Fox Sports. Incredibly, Verrills was not even required to go off the field for an HIA in an incident that saw viewers questioning how Talakai was only given 10 in the sin.

The Sharks may have been fortunate on that occasion but Fitzgibbon was left puzzled by a number of calls that went against his side in another disappointing first half. Errors, penalties and set restarts handed the Titans the first 25 play-the-balls of the match. Kieran Foran made the Sharks pay by crossing for the game's first try, with Chris Randall adding a second after the Talakai sin bin. It also emerged after the game that referee Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski dudded the Sharks in attack early in the second half after calling last tackle one play too early.

Cronulla had plenty of chances though, with Royce Hunt dropping a ball just short of the tryline, Jack Williams fumbling another on attack, and Nicho Hynes having a pass for Jesse Ramien called forward. But Fitzgibbon was especially frustrated when Sharks fullback Will Kennedy was controversially denied a try after Titans fullback Keano Kini led with his feet to prevent a try and the Cronulla star fumbled the footy after placing it down on the foot of the Gold Coast No.1. The bunker official could be heard explaining that it was a legal play from Kini, leaving Fitzgibbon and viewers baffled.

Titans fullback Keano Kini led with his feet to prevent a try to Sharks fullback Will Kennedy in an incident that baffled viewers. Pic: Fox League
Titans fullback Keano Kini led with his feet to prevent a try to Sharks fullback Will Kennedy in an incident that baffled viewers. Pic: Fox League

"I didn't know you were allowed to lead with your feet," Fitzgibbon said about the no try call against Kennedy. "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."

Under-pressure Sharks halfback Hynes had another quiet performance in the first half as his form slump continued after being dropped from the NSW Origin squad. Hynes scored an easy try in the second half after strong work from Talakai and had a hand in tries for Braydon Trindall and Daniel Atkinson but was unable to inspire his side to a comeback win.

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David Fifita was solid in his bid to win back a Queensland Origin jersey, with Gold Coast coach Des Hasler talking up the chances of the Titans forward and two of his teammates featuring in the July 17 decider for the Maroons.

"He's got to be in the picture," Hasler said about Fifita. "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."

with AAP