The Warriors' playoff flame still burns, with one of their elder statesmen blowing on the season's embers on the Gold Coast tonight.
Veteran winger Jerome Ropati, in his first NRL game of the year, scored a double with tries either side of half-time to help set up a thrilling 24-22 victory over the resurgent Titans at Skilled Park.
The match was a true stunner, featuring end-to-end footy and a dramatic finish that nearly saw Titans winger Kevin Gordon steal it for the hosts.
With only a minute remaining, Gordon collected an Albert Kelly bomb and was able to get the ball down. Yet the television referee judged the ball had gone just into touch - meaning the Warriors' season is still alive.
The last time Ropati scored a brace was round one of the 2011 season, and he couldn't have picked a better time to do it again with the Warriors' season hanging in the balance.
The visitors looked decidedly dusty in the first stanza. Playmaker Shaun Johnson looked poor on fifth tackle options, while handling errors dotted the Warriors' first half effort.
Through halfback Albert Kelly, the Titans applied the blowtorch, looking by the far the better side. Yet they headed into the half only six points clear - a margin that the Warriors would make them regret in the second 40.
Ropati and bullocking centre Konrad Hurrell got in on the act to extend the margin, while Johnson tightened up his game, leading his team far more maturely around the paddock.
The last ten minutes contained wild, scrambling footy from both sides - yet the Warriors were able to just hang on, with some desperate red zone tackling - and some real luck right on the buzzer, with Gordon's effort.
The Warriors had won the last five on the trot against the Titans heading into the game, though their Queensland opponents did have a six-game streak going against them before that.
In their first clash this year, the Warriors snuck home 25-24 at Mt Smart Stadium, though the reality was the home side were by far the more dominant of the two teams.
The reverse was true in the early going on the Gold Coast. Led by Kelly, and helped by Warriors errors, the hosts hit the front in the third minute through tall prop Ryan James.
James went over thanks to a fine offload by winger Kevin Gordon who had collected a Kelly bomb. Yet it was Warriors centre Dane Nielsen who would cross the line next, the ultimate recipient of a well-worked backline move.
But that would be the last time the Warriors looked to really threaten during the half. Continuing his bad ways of late, Johnson struggled, while Ropati looked off the NRL pace on his return. James collected his second at the end of the first quarter, rumbling over from close range.
Warriors coach Matt Elliott had reason to feel aggrieved it was given - it appeared on multiple television replays that fullback Kevin Locke managed to get his arm between the ball and the in-goal.
The Titans raids continued, and though the Warriors held out the hosts for a time, it was inevitable the hosts would break through. Brad Takairangi would be the one who'd do it - pouncing on a poor bomb collection by giant Warriors winger Manu Vatuvei.
Ropati scored the first of his double just before the half - thanks to a tidy pass by Locke - before Hurrell scored a stunner five minutes into the second stanza.
The Tongan centre's try was a stunning individual effort, going 50 metres and doing his best impression of an NFL running back. Ropati's second, after 62 minutes, was created by slick passing by Johnson and Simon Mannering.
Titans winger Anthony Don went over late, and so did Gordon. Luckily Gordon's wasn't given - and the Warriors stay alive.
NZ Warriors 24 (Jerome Ropati 2, Dane Nielsen, Konrad Hurrell tries; Shaun Johnson 3 goals) Gold Coast Titans 22 (Ryan James 2, Brad Takairangi, Anthony Don tries; Aiden Sezer 3 goals). HT: 10-16
- © Fairfax NZ News
Who do you think will win the Rugby League World Cup?