Warriors v Titans: Five key points
The Warriors left it until the final two minutes to edge past a battered and bruised Gold Coast Titans, with Ryan Hoffman scoring late to seal a 28-22 comeback win in Round 5. Here are the key discussion points from the match at Mt Smart Stadium.
Foran stars in NRL return
After a false start last week when a hamstring injury suffered in warm-up prevented Kieran Foran from making his Warriors debut, the star playmaker enjoyed a dream comeback on Sunday afternoon.
With over 100 running metres to his name and a pair of line breaks, Foran capped it off with a crucial try on 62 minutes which led to his side drawing even on the scoreboard.
Despite being out of the game for almost a full calendar year, Foran didn't miss a beat against the Titans, holding his edge together well defensively and adding some direction to the Warriors in attack.
Coach Stephen Kearney said his performance came as no surprise.
"Kieran is one of those that it wouldn't matter if you took him to the moon, he would play anywhere, anytime, any condition, that's the nature of the man," Kearney said.
"He handled himself really well."
Injuries cruel Titans
The Gold Coast were already ravaged by injuries before they arrived in Auckland, and now have another three players who will require plenty of attention from the club doctor this week.
The Titans lost fullback Tyrone Roberts to posterior ligament damage (knee) nine minutes into the second half, while Nathaniel Peteru and Joe Greenwood also finished the game on the sidelines.
Hooker Ryan Simpkins was also restricted to only 45 minutes due to back spasms, while Konrad Hurrell was a late withdrawal with an ankle injury.
While coach Neil Henry refused to use it as an excuse post-match, the injury toll was a contributing factor to the Gold Coast's second-half collapse.
Drastic improvement on horror handling
Seven days after they coughed up 19 errors in a 26-12 loss to the St George Illawarra Dragons, the Warriors controlled the ball and completed their sets to the highest standards in Round 5.
The Kiwi side completed at 86 per cent at Mt Smart Stadium, making only five errors.
As a result they were able to dominate the possession count and were required to make 75 fewer tackles than they had to against the Dragons last week.
Second half a nightmare for Titans
The Titans had set themselves up with an excellent opportunity to go on with the game at half-time, holding a commanding 22-12 lead and looking the superior side.
But a second 40 minutes where they failed to score a single point, conceded 16 and completed only 10 sets, let the Warriors back into the match.
Due to their lack of possession the Titans were forced to make 199 tackles in the second half and came up with 28 misses in the second period compared to just nine in the first.
"No possession really in the second half, no field position on the back of it, so it wore us down eventually," Henry said.
"We rarely got down their end to mount any pressure like we did in the first half, so in the end it wore us down and they were good enough to get the last try."
A testament to the close nature of the NRL
With the game on the line both sides missed opportunities in the last five minutes to nail what would likely have been a winning field goal, before the Warriors came up with a clutch play to secure the result.
According to Kearney the late match-winning try to Hoffman was a perfect example of how close the NRL is in 2017, with small decisions and plays making all the difference.
"It's an anxious [time], the game is on the line and that's the NRL isn't it? It's like that every week," Kearney said.
"We didn't invent that [play on the spot], that's something we trained to do and worked to do and the boys understood and trusted themselves to get themselves in a position to execute that."
On the other side of the equation, Henry rued poor execution on both sides of the ball in the closing stages.
"Disappointing we didn’t set up a bit better to maybe get a field goal or play a bit more footy," Henry said.
"We made some poor defensive reads and even on the very last [play] we had a bit of poor movement not working together on the edge where Hoffman has got through."