A classy showing from halfback Shaun Johnson and impressive first hit-outs by big-name recruits Tohu Harris and Blake Green were the standout features of the Warriors’ 20-14 trial win over the Gold Coast Titans at Sunshine Coast Stadium.
Johnson produced sparkling touches in the Warriors’ first three tryscoring movements and his fledgling combination with five-eighth Green looked slick. Ex-Melbourne back-rower Harris got through a mountain of work on both sides of the ball, repeatedly stretching the Titans’ left-side defence.
Meanwhile, rivals for the No.9 jumper Issac Luke and Sam Cook both pressed their claims for inclusion in Stephen Kearney’s 17 for Round 1 with lively displays at dummy-half. David Fusitu’a scored a dazzling double, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck was typically solid, and under-pressure left-side duo Solomone Kata and Ken Maumalo gave their first-grade selection hopes a timely boost.
After a solid opening, the Warriors eventually cracked under stacks of Gold Coast possession. Ashley Taylor pounced on his own grubber that deflected off a defender’s legs near the try-line to put the Titans on the board.
A slew of penalties prevented the Warriors from gaining any traction, until the 26th minute when Shaun Johnson put the foot on the gas for the first time and created space out wide before combining with hooker Sam Cook, who found David Fusitu’a for a trademark acrobatic finish in the corner.
Johnson nailed the sideline conversion for 6-all.
The Warriors took a four-point lead into halftime after scoring down the left-hand side of the ground, with a brilliant tip-on by Johnson allowing Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Kata and Maumalo combine. Kata backed up his winger to dot down just inside the touch in-goal line.
The moment Warriors fans will most hope is a portent for the 2018 season ahead came in the early stages of the second half.
Blake Green combined sharply with Johnson, who skipped to the outside and threw a wonderful long ball to Fusitu’a for another scintillating finish with little room to work with.
Another frustrating run of errors and penalties through the middle stages of the second half prevented the Warriors from further displaying their attacking wares, but their goal-line defence was impressive until Tyronne Roberts-Davis found his way over for the Titans with 15 minutes left.
Cook capped a strong performance by barging over for a try from dummy-half amid a torrential downpour, edging the Warriors out to a 20-10 lead.
Roberts-Davis capitalised on superb work from former Warriors favourite Konrad Hurrell – who was kept quiet for most of the night by Kata – to bag his second and cut the deficit back to six points, but the visitors held on for the win.
Kearney will no doubt be keeping the result in perspective. The Titans were unmistakably flat and disjointed for the most part, while his side’s ball control and discipline fell well short of premiership standard. Adam Blair also made an underwhelming club debut, coughing up possession and penalties during limited minutes on the paddock.
But the Warriors’ other big guns looked fit and hungry – in what was the first and last trial for most of the line-up, the positives comfortably outweighed the negatives.