Cronulla Sharks halfback Chad Townsend has captain Paul Gallen's backing ahead Manly clash

Sharks captain Paul Gallen has backed halfback Chad Townsend after Cronulla’s deflating 12-10 loss to Brisbane.

Townsend had a tough night at Suncorp Stadium highlighted by a shanked conversion attempt from close range after a Valentine Holmes try which would have given Cronulla the lead early in the second half.

Instead, a Sharks error allowed Brisbane the field position to receive a penalty within kicking distance five minutes later, with a Jordan Kahu penalty goal proving to be the difference between the two sides.

Townsend is expected to retain his place in the No.7 jersey when Cronulla host struggling Manly at Southern Cross Group Stadium on Sunday despite the strong form of Kyle Flanagan for the Sharks’ feeder club Newtown.

Flanagan is the son of Sharks first grade coach, Shane, and has captained the NSW under-20s and Intrust Super Premiership NSW Residents teams this season. The 19-year-old was also called into NSW senior squad training to feature as Queensland No.7 Ben Hunt in opposed sessions.

Flanagan broke his thumb late in the pre-season but along with Blayke Brailey, younger brother of Sharks NRL hooker Jayden, has been one of the Jets consistently best players.

If there was ever a time to blood the younger Flanagan a home clash with the desperate Sea Eagles – thrashed 56-24 by the Sydney Roosters before throwing away what looked to be an unassailable lead against Penrith last weekend – would appear ideal, with Manly sucked into a battle for the wooden spoon alongside Parramatta, North Queensland and Canterbury.

Flanagan is likely to be named in Cronulla’s 21-man squad to face the Sea Eagles on Tuesday afternoon as he has a number of times this year. But it is likely Townsend will remain at halfback as he trained in the role during an opposed training session on Tuesday morning. It would also be a massive call for coach Flanagan to dump his 2016 premiership-winning halfback five weeks before the finals.

And Gallen refused to blame Townsend for the Brisbane defeat during the post-match press conference after the Sharks failed to take advantage of three late sets on the Broncos’ line.

“You’ve got to give them a bit of credit. They defended well,” he said. 

“But we didn’t execute. Chaddy Townsend is under enormous pressure and we’re not listening to him at times.

“We should have got that done. That’s a hard loss because I thought we should have won. But we didn’t. We’ve just got to get back on the bike next week and hopefully get the win and learn from it and put it behind us.”

It is understood Gallen also voiced his defence of Townsend and halves partner Matt Moylan to teammates in the sheds after the Broncos game.

Flanagan senior was less than impressed with match officials, laying the blame for Cronulla’s two-point defeat to Brisbane squarely at their feet.

The Sharks were on the end of a number of contentious decisions including a Ricky Leutele try being disallowed by the video referee bunker and penalties against Moylan for dangerous contact and Matt Prior for a strip.

Flanagan referenced Cronulla’s good fortune after being on the right end of two incorrect decisions in their tight win over Canberra the previous week. But slammed match officials after their sub-par performance.

“We were on the positive end last week, we’re on the negative end this week. It’s a concern for the game. That refereeing standard today wasn’t up to scratch,” he said.

“There was just too many of them… [we were] brave, tried really hard. Effort, give them a tick for that. We didn’t execute great. But they’re the reasons why we didn’t win.”