Gold Coast Titans vs New Zealand Warriors: Five things we learned

The Gold Coast Titans have snapped a three game losing streak with a comprehensive 36-12 win against the Warriors at home. Here are five things we learned.

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Inspired by young guns Phillip Sami, Brenko Lee and AJ Brimson, the Titans overturned a half-time deficit to blow away the Warriors and break their poor record against them. The win was their first against the Warriors at home since 2010 and their second in 16 matches. The 24-point margin was also their biggest against the New Zealand-based outfit.

While the Titans’ season is over, the loss leaves the Warriors in eighth position on 24 points, four points ahead of the Tigers with five rounds to play. Their season has gone stop-start since the initial early season surge, and things get no easier with a visit to the Dragons in Wollongong next week.

1. Brimson puts together most decisive performance of young career

The Titans’ five-eighth may have only played 10 NRL games so far but played an impressive hand in his team’s win. While Ashley Taylor was a hit in attack but a miss on defense, Brimson picked up Taylor’s role perfectly, as he scored one try and had a hand in two others.

With the Titans up 20-12 midway through the second half, he pulled off two try-saving tackles on his own line, opposing Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Sam Lisone. He then backed up on attack when Mitch Rein made a great run through dummy-half from within the Titan’s own half, sending it on to Brimson who ran away to score.

In the 71st minute, another great left-edge play near the Warriors saw Brimson undertake a brilliant catch and pass, creating an easy overlap for Phillip Sami to score his second try in six minutes in the corner. His commitment to the cause was clear as he was hammered by the Warriors’ defense upon relieving the ball. 

Earlier on in the game, Taylor and Brimson again worked the Warriors’ right edge, and a shift between them created a perfect overlap for Konrad Hurrell to score in the corner and give the Titans an early lead in the contest. At just 20-years-of-age, Brimson looks a bright prospect for the Gold Coast.

2. Disappointing performance costs the Warriors

Coming over and playing a side they have been dominant against in recent years, the Warriors would have fancied themselves on the Gold Coast, with the dry, warm conditions suiting their style of play. Unfortunately, they left the match having virtually no chance of making the top 4.

Completing only 21 of 31 sets for 68% will never take you far in a game, alongside 12 errors. The Titans’ attack all but out-ran them, as the Warriors conceded 1,800 metres from a side averaging 1,350 metres most weeks. In response, they could only manage 1,300 metres, well below on their season average of 1,500 metres. It will be a worrying statistic for coach Steve Kearney as they have struggled to score points at times during the season (average of 19 points per game) and have let in several points from opposition when conceding losses. They failed to score at all in the second half.

While the missed tackle count was in their favour (28 against 24), it didn’t tell an accurate picture as the Titans’ carved through some soft defense, as eight line breaks will attest to. Brimson and Sami went through uninhibited on the Warriors’ right edge after some nice dummy-half plays, whilst the start of the second half saw Brenko Lee set up Anthony Don along the right-edge from out of nowhere on the half-way line. Lee grabbed one for himself just four minutes later. Their defense will really have to front up if they want a proper chance at finals’ football.

3. Sami’s star rises

The 21-year-old is finding his way in the top grade. His great all-round game included 229 all-run metres and three line breaks, comfortably out-shining his counterpart Tuivasa-Sheck.

Speaking of which. His first try would have been one that Tuivasa-Sheck himself would have been proud of and will expect to feature on highlight reels for some time to come. The Titans worked the Warriors’ right edge and a couple of good off-loads in play saw Ryan James shift the ball to Sami, who ran the ball up the middle of the field. With only Tuivasa-Sheck to beat, Sami put on one right step then one left and beat Tuivasa-Sheck all ends up, strolling the additional 40 metres to the line and putting the match beyond doubt. 

His second try was the build-up of great interchangeable passing from the backs, as he latched onto the end of a catch and pass from Brimson to score in the corner. 

4. Bunker call causes controversy

The TV review officials have been in the spotlight yet again recently and an early call in the game added more fuel to the fire, so to speak. 

The Titans’ halves worked the Warriors’ right edge early in the game, and a great overlap saw Hurrell go over to score in the corner. The referee decision was an on-field call of try, before being sent to the bunker for clarification on a possible obstruction.

Off the ball, Titans back-rower Keegan Hipgrave (who was better behaved in this match, for the record) appeared to push Joe Vuna to the ground. Vuna had no chance of preventing the try, yet the push was careless and probably on balance grounds to overturn the try as a penalty against the Titans.

However, the bunker review found there was “minimal contact” between Hipgrave and Vuna, and awarded the try to the Titans. Plus one to the guys upstairs.

5. Warriors’ stop-start season continues

They started impressively, winning five in a row to start the season. However, since then the Warriors have only won twice in a row on the one occasion (rounds 14 & 15). It points to the inconsistency in their unit and whilst on occasions they haven’t had a full strength side, missing the likes of Blake Green and Tohu Harris, and Issac Luke for this week, they really needed to put away a team like the Titans to show they are a capable top eight side.

Because of this loss, they find themselves in eighth place, just four points ahead of the Tigers and a points differential of -20. It doesn’t get any easier with their next fixture against the Dragons away this coming week. Whilst they weren’t expected to make the top 8 this season, early signs pointed to their capability as a top 4 side. That is all but gone now and they will need to re-strategise their attack and defense if they are to keep their current position heading towards the finals. With a 7-3 record on the road this year, an unpredictable Warriors performance this coming week wouldn’t be a surprise.

What did you learn from the Gold Coast Titan’s shock home win over the New Zealand Warriors? Let us know in the comments below.

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