Titans v Warriors: Five key points
Jarryd Hayne's triumphant return, the Warriors prove they are battled hardened, Ashley Taylor is tough as teak, and Gold Coast fans vote with their feet.
Hayne's return 'scary' good
Unprompted Warriors coach Andrew McFadden summed up the mood in the room when he described Jarryd Hayne's return to the NRL and first game as a Titans as "scary" while former Blues teammate Ryan Hoffman said it was "pretty amazing".
Exceeding anything that could have been expected of an athlete who hadn't played rugby league in almost two years, Hayne came on towards the end of the first half at left centre and proceeded to bury Bodene Thompson into the Cbus Super Stadium turf with his first involvement.
He had eight runs for 76 metres, made nine tackles and played 52 minutes but it was the footballing touches such as grubber kicks, bombs and cut-out passes – besides the one intercepted by David Fusitu'a.
McFadden and Hoffman joked that they prepared for his return by watching video of his game against the Houston Texans during his NFL stint with the San Francisco 49ers but were as enthralled as everyone at what he delivered first up.
"It was pretty amazing. He hasn't played a game in two years and some of the stuff he did today was unbelievable," Hoffman said.
"That's Jarryd. You act surprised but then you think that he's been doing this for a long time, doing amazing plays and coming out with the stuff only a very special athlete can do.
"It's fantastic to have him in rugby league again."
Attitude adjustment behind Warriors resurgence
The Warriors made three errors in the first 20 minutes coming out of their own half which in very recent times may have led to a mini meltdown that they struggled to recover from.
Instead, they turned the Titans away with impressive defensive resolve on each occasion and it is that commitment that captain Ryan Hoffman credits with their resurgence in 2016.
When they were dusted up 42-0 by the Storm on Anzac Day the Warriors were a lowly 3-5 from the first eight weeks and coach Andrew McFadden was becoming increasingly a man under pressure.
But the only teams to have beaten the Warriors since Round 13 have had to put in extra time to do so as they have moved into outright seventh position with three of their remaining games at home.
"The fact that we're backing up our errors. We were a bit untidy at times but the attitude to turn up in defence I think has been the turning point for us," Hoffman said.
"That last 10 minutes we had a lot of blokes out on their feet but they just kept turning up defensively.
"Defence is all about attitude so you know if the boys are putting themselves in position, making their tackles and doing what they can for their teammates you know the attitude is where it needs to be."
Taylor's toughness again evident
For a 21-year-old rookie going into a crucial clash as the most senior member of the halves the pressure was again on Ashley Taylor and although his team went down he further emphasised his class and toughness.
When he stood bravely in front of a rampant Solomone Kata midway through the first half Taylor was sent sprawling to the ground and struggled to drag his battered young body to his feet.
But rise he did and remained the Titans' No.1 playmaking option for the entire 80 minutes, having to deal with the influence and presence of Jarryd Hayne as his halves partner in the second half.
Every time he kicked Warriors chasers knocked him to the ground and he was a target of Kata's all game but the likely 2016 Rookie of the Year showed he is not only a classy playmaker but tough as teak.
Battle-hardened Warriors finish stronger
Ryan Hoffman looked delighted that the game had been decided inside 80 minutes but it was evident that doing extra time in all but one game the past five weeks held the Warriors in good stead on Sunday.
The Titans were clearly lethargic early on the back of their physical golden point game against the Sharks on Monday night and dropped off tackles and made crucial errors as the game headed into the final minutes.
Warriors coach Andrew McFadden said that his team had played so many golden point games this season that the back-rowers were averaging more than 80 minutes a game but that physical toll could hold them in good stead for what lies ahead.
"We need to bounce back and find a bit more energy," said Henry who pointed to the Sharks' loss to the Raiders on Saturday night as further proof of the toll Monday night took on both teams.
"I thought across the park we didn't generate enough tackle breaks or momentum at the play-the-ball to be creative with our attack and they turned up. They've been defending well and we had to be better."
Gold Coast footy fans vote with their feet
Not since the Warriors came to Robina in 2010 to play the Titans in a Qualifying Final had this many people flooded into Cbus Super Stadium for an NRL fixture and the 25,109 who turned out didn't leave disappointed.
The large contingent of Warriors fans saw their team further solidify their growing premiership credentials with a performance that was as gritty as it was slick while Titans supporters saw more from superstar recruit Jarryd Hayne than they could possibly have expected.
The energy was something akin to a finals fixture and wasn't lost on the players.
"There wasn't really too much difference other than we had a player of his stature join the club and it's going to be great for us," James said of the preparation with 'Hayne Mania' enveloping the team.
"It was obviously great today, we had 25,000-plus out there and that hasn't happened in a long time and it was excellent to see."