Dave Taylor may have scored a first-half hat-trick for the Titans last night, but it was the two tries from 19-year-old David Fusitu'a that stole the show in the Warriors' 24-16 win.
The Warriors found victory harder to come by than expected, and certainly it was one of their poorer performances during Andrew McFadden's time as head coach. But amongst the errors was some sensational play which will help get them closer to the top eight.
Taylor, who was unfortunate not to earn a call-up for Origin duty for Queensland, was unstoppable in the first half as he racked up three tries in 40 minutes.
But he could not win the game on his own and throughout the entire match Fusitu'a and Konrad Hurrell were outstanding on the right edge.
Fusitu'a came into the team only because Kevin Locke had to pull out with an ankle injury, but he played so well that it's going to be tough for Locke or any other winger to knock him out of the side.
The Warriors' defence was tested for most of the first 10 minutes, but their first attack brought them close to scoring, with Konrad Hurrell making one of his notorious big runs from close range.
They didn't manage it then, but a couple of minutes later Ben Matulino was in for the opening try as he took a pass from Chad Townsend and sliced through the Titans defence.
Townsend missed the conversion, with usual goal-kicker Shaun Johnson relieved of those duties because of a hamstring problem.
That should have opened the floodgates and the Warriors started to look for a big score against a depleted opposition.
However, it was the Titans who crossed next, with Taylor scooping up a Sam Tomkins fumble and grounding the ball. Beau Henry nailed the conversion from out wide to put the home side in front.
But in the 21st minute the Warriors took the lead again when Fusitu'a made the break up the middle, then offloaded to Johnson who ran 60m to score.
Once more, though, Taylor was able to keep the Titans in the game by bulldozing his way to the line with three Warriors players hanging off his back.
Three minutes before the break Hurrell showed remarkable skills in catching a pass by his toes and then passing to Fusitu'a out wide for the Warriors' next try.
That should have been enough to give them the halftime lead, but two minutes later Taylor completed his hat-trick with a 30m run against a scrambling Warriors defence.
Six minutes after the resumption Simon Mannering - in his 199th game for the club - stretched over for the next try and in the 63rd minute Fusitu'a grabbed his second, with Hurrell again the provider.
From then on the Warriors coasted home, although there is concern over Johnson, who left the field with an ankle injury.
If the Warriors are to make the top eight this season they must pick up wins like this and the same goes for their match against the equally poor Knights next Sunday at Mt Smart Stadium.
This is the most crucial time of the season for the Warriors.
They can make up ground on the Australian teams, whose players are obsessed about Origin.
NZ Warriors 24 (Ben Matulino, Shaun Johnson, David Fusitu'a 2, Simon Mannering tries; Chad Townsend 2 goals) Gold Coast Titans 16 (David Taylor 3 tries; Beau Henry 2 goals). HT: 16-14
- Sunday News
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