Warriors v Titans: Five key points
A late push got the Warriors home 27-18 against the Titans on Saturday night, with the Kiwi side picking up their fourth win in their last five games. Here are five key points from the Round 17 clash at Mt Smart Stadium.
Ideal result heading into a bye
In the five weeks since they had their first bye the Warriors have turned their season around, picking up four wins and a one-point loss to the competition's top side the Sharks.
As the squad heads into another weekend off coach Andrew McFadden said the result was a crucial one before the break, capping off a period of good form.
"I think it sort of really closes off this five-week period between the byes; we have had four wins and a golden point loss, so it has been a really good consistent run for us," McFadden said.
"Each game has been different and I think we have competed and played really well."
In their last five games the Warriors have scored 143 points and conceded only 79, and now sit inside the NRL Telstra Premiership top eight, pending other results this week.
Mannering's low-key hopes dashed
Simon Mannering had tried his best all week to fend away hype surrounding his 250th NRL game, but couldn't get away from it come kick-off.
With usual captain Ryan Hoffman out with a virus, Mannering was called up to lead the team and McFadden admitted Mannering was hardly overjoyed to hear the news on the morning of the game.
The milestone man initially asked not to do the pre-game toss, a request which was denied, but got away with subbing Shaun Johnson in for the post-match press conference.
"Simon apologises for not being here… actually no he didn't," McFadden joked during the press conference.
"When I told him he was going to be captain today he said 'can someone else do the toss?'
"He was happy to do the job today, but I think he will be happy to hand it back to Ryan next week."
Hoffman was ruled out on the morning of the game, leaving McFadden to replace him with Bunty Afoa who came onto the bench to make his NRL debut.
Cruel blow for Gold Coast youngster
Karl Lawton won't forget his NRL debut in a hurry, but sadly it will be for all the wrong reasons after the centre suffered an horrific ankle injury seven minutes into the second half in Auckland.
Lawton fell awkwardly under the full weight of Afoa, with the injury making for gruesome viewing on the live broadcast.
The 20-year-old was stretchered from the field and taken straight to hospital in Auckland, with his absence further stretching an already depleted Gold Coast line-up.
"We lost 'Zilly' [Will Zillman] anyway from training, and then back-rowers and centres, and unfortunately Karl Lawton on his debut looks like he has broken his ankle there," coach Neil Henry said.
It is the second week in a row the Titans have lost a player to a serious lower limb injury, after fellow rookie centre, Nathan Davis, dislocated and broke his right leg during the Round 16 loss to Canberra.
Warriors show some true grit again
It has so often been their Achilles heel, but over the past three weeks the Warriors have shown an ability to tough it out for prolonged periods.
Against the Roosters in Round 15 they had to do it for 64 minutes before they scored a single try, while last week against Cronulla they matched them step for step until a field goal finally separated them.
McFadden said that ability to win in trying circumstances was the most pleasing point to take away from the victory.
"I think it was a good win, we have learned in the last five weeks or so is that you have got to find different ways to win, and we found a different way tonight," he said.
Meanwhile Johnson was quick to pay tribute to the Gold Coast for their effort.
"You have got to give them [the Titans] credit, they scrambled hard, they were in our face, they played with the footy and put us under pressure," Johnson said.
"Our ability to stay in it and weather that, that is probably the most pleasing thing from my end."
Gold Coast still primed for run home
Despite leaving Auckland without the two points, the nature of the Titans' performance means they don't lose much momentum in their quest for a top-eight berth.
With a bye next week and a host of players set to return, Henry remained upbeat after the loss in Auckland.
"We need to get on a bit of a run I think, [but] I think a few teams do," he said.
"We are certainly hopefully that we can still push towards a top eight finish.
"I know that we have got the squad, we hopefully welcome back maybe Konrad Hurrell, David Mead and maybe 'Shillo' [David Shillington]."