New Zealand Warriors 20
Gold Coast Titans 8
The new-look Warriors continued their strong start to the season with a flamboyant and hearty 20-8 NRL win over the Gold Coast Titans at Mt Smart Stadium.
The Stephen Kearney coached side made good on promises to back up last week‘s first-up win over the Rabbitohs and delivered in their first home game of the year in front of 14,132 fans.
Right wing David Fusitu‘a snared two tries for the second week in a row, while captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and left centre Solomone Kata also crossed for four-pointers, while Titans fullback Michael Gordon kicked an early penalty goal before right wing Anthony Don crossed for his side‘s only try in the dying stages.
The result saw the Warriors continue to exorcise the demons of the past by securing back-to-back opening wins the first time since 2009 and just the third occasion since the club‘s inception in 1995.
It was a return to the good old days with the home side producing 24 offloads to the Titans nine, and the type of defensive grit that hasn‘t been seen from the club in at least six years.
“It was a really tough contest,” said Kearney.
“What I liked about the lads performance was that they stayed in the battle and Rog again come up with some really big plays on defence and we scrambled really well at times and kept our line together.
“I knew it was going to be a really tough week in a lot of ways. Coming back from a big trip and under the circumstances it was really about focusing on getting our jobs done today and the boys did that pretty well.”
The home side looked shaky in the opening stages, with ill-discipline and errors blighting their play, while rookie second-rower Isaiah Papali‘i is expected to miss a few games after suffering a medial ligament injury.
At times their overly confident play worked against them as they pushed passes and ran laterally rather than taking the more direct route, and a lack of awareness and poor execution saw scoring chances go begging.
“We could have been a little bit more direct today,” Kearney said.
“The offloads presented themselves but it probably played into their hands a bit.
“I‘m not going to discourage that but it‘s just about having an awareness of when it‘s the right time.”
The Titans failed to capitalise on their wealth of possession with an obstruction ruling denying five-eighth Kane Elgey a try and left wing Phillip Sami losing the ball over the line, while the Warriors missed out when a try-saving tackle from Gordon put Fusitu‘a over the sideline.
But as the half progressed the Warriors gained the ascendancy and continually found space down the right-edge with Harris and centre Peta Hiku combining to send Fusitu‘a over after 17 minutes.
Then, a switch of play from Johnson then saw Green lay on an inside pass for Tuivasa-Sheck to run in under the posts, with Johnson booting his second conversion.
The Titans threatened a late second-half comeback when Sami crossed but the try was disallowed due to captain Ryan James standing in the defensive line.
The Warriors sealed the result when a short-ball from Tuivasa-Sheck gave Kata a replica of his second-half try in Perth last week, before Fusitu‘a soared high to claim his double, while Don crossed for the Titans right on fulltime.
The Warriors will look to make it three in a row when they head to Canberra to face the Raiders next Saturday.
Warriors 20 (David Fusitu‘a 2, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Solomone Kata tries; Shaun Johnson two cons)
Titans 8 (Anthony Don try; Michael Gordon con, pen)