Wests Tigers v Titans: Five key points
A Jarryd Hayne field goal eventually proved the difference between the Wests Tigers and Titans at Campbelltown Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Here are five talking points from the Gold Coast's 19-18 win.
'This is my house'
Although it was a Tigers home game there was no ignoring the subplot that Jarryd Hayne's first NRL game in Sydney in almost two years would be his first ever at the stadium down the road from where he grew up in Minto.
The man more capable than most at finding the headline moment duly booted an ice-cold match-winning field goal at seconds from full-time, raised his arms in triumph and bellowed 'this is my house'.
Hooker Nathan Friend, having thrown twice to halfback Ash Taylor for unsuccessful field goal shots earlier, decided enough was enough.
"Actually I was going to throw to him on the second but he said give it to Ash to have another go but on the third one he took it and I think his words were 'this is my house'. It's good to have that confidence," Friend smiled in the post-match press conference.
Henry described Hayne as a good kicker of the ball.
"I think 'Friendy' had thrown the ball to Ash Taylor enough times so we tried something else. It's a crucial part of what we're about now," Henry said.
"A lot of golden point games this year. Teams need to think about being a bit creative around what happens around running for field position or when you can get a kick away or having a point of difference with your kicking game. Jarryd nailed it. I thought it was fantastic for him to actually punch out 80 minutes as well, his legs were a bit heavy but he got the job done."
How didn’t that go over?
As wonderful as Hayne's field goal was, it wouldn't have been attempted had Mitch Moses's unsuccessful sideline conversion from David Nofoaluma's amazing 70th-minute try gone over.
The playmaker's shot started on line and looked a winner all the way to the posts until it just drifted left late, enough to collide with the left-hand upright – before dropping back between the posts but centimetres to the wrong side of the crossbar.
His penalty shot three minutes later wasn't close but was arguably easier and had either of those attempts gone over it would likely be the Titans licking their wounds afterwards.
"It's tough to take. A lot of things went against us in that game. We got a couple of tough calls," lamented Tigers coach Jason Taylor after the game.
"Goal kick from the sideline that would have put us in front that I still don't know how it missed, it hit that upright and I thought was going to fall behind the bar and fell in front of it."
Titans' fate in their own hands now
The win moves the Titans to seventh on the ladder and following the Warriors' loss to Souths, the Titans are guaranteed to finish the weekend in the eight. They are on 25 competition points and two wins from their final three games will almost certainly see them feature in finals football.
"We do [have our fate in our hands], we talked about it before. Our opportunity is the next few weeks," Henry said.
"Everyone plays each other, we're under no false illusions about playing the Knights at home [next week], they've had some good performances there, they'll be playing for that win. It should be a good crowd, they're always well supported the Knights and then we're against the Panthers at home. We need to win games.
"It's sort of a finals flavour for those four teams battling for the last two spots to go into the top eight so we need to be up every week."
Finals every week for Tigers now
The loss saw the Titans leapfrog them and now the Tigers probably need to win all three of their remaining games if they are to postpone Mad Monday beyond the first week of September.
"That was a semi-final game. We were on top a lot early but in any big game like that the opposition's always going to come back and they did. The guys toughed it out for 80 minutes," Taylor said.
"I just want to keep seeing that and to keep playing those games. Penrith next week, they play [Sunday] it's going to be the same sort of atmosphere and we're ready for it."
Skipper Aaron Woods added: "We spoke about it all week, it was going to be our semi-final. The boys' desperation was pretty good I just think we turned over the ball too much," Woods said.
"We're still upbeat, we got beaten by one point and we played OK. The good thing is we play Penrith next week on the Friday, it's a short turnaround for us. It's going to be a semi-final for us again."
Hayne still a work in progress
Aside from the field goal, Hayne had some great touches. A few towering bombs, one of which set up an Anthony Don try and a tricky grubber that ended up forcing the Tigers to drop out. He intercepted a Mitch Moses offload and sprinted 50 metres and it took two of the Tigers' fastest outside backs to track him down.
But there were signs of rust too. An early bomb floated over the touch line on the full, and a fumble at his own goal line could have been disastrous had Nofoaluma also knocked on trying to score.
But he got through the 80 minutes with no problems, and he passed, kicked and ran well. His final tally read 145 metres with two tackle busts, 16 tackles made but four missed, as well as two errors and two penalties conceded.
"I thought it was fantastic for him to actually punch out 80 minutes as well, his legs were a bit heavy but he got the job done," Henry said.
"He got his job done around the guys in the team, I thought he had some nice touches and made his tackles and had a couple of good defensive reads and that's it.
"He wasn't over-targeted defensively so he worked with the line. We all know he's got great touch and he's a good player. It hasn't taken him long to get back into the groove. He knows it's a work in progress with his role in the team."