TWL RD 2 WRAP: WARRIORS EASE PAST DEPLETED TITANS

The Warriors have opened a season with two wins for the first time since 2009 after comfortably accounting for a rudderless Gold Coast Titans outfit 20-8 at Mount Smart Stadium.

The Titans were rocked by the withdrawal of linchpin Ashley Taylor and never looked capable of gaining any momentum.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Issac Luke were again outstanding throughout, Shaun Johnson toyed with the Titans’ defence at times, James Gavet and Tohu Harris were at the forefront of another strong engine-room effort, and David Fusitu’a enhanced his status as one of the NRL’s very best finishers with another brace of tries.

Rarely pressured by the Gold Coast defence, the Warriors offloaded at will from start to finish – but that freedom led to too much sloppy play and missed opportunities. Two tries in the final 20 minutes sealed the result after the Warriors had built a subpar 12-2 lead by halftime.

The early stages seemed a classic case of the Warriors coming down to their opposition’s level: a poor first kick from Johnson, back-to-back penalties and a cheap 2-0 advantage for the unfancied Titans.

Round 1 star Isaiah Papali’i’s eighth-minute exit with a leg injury did little to help the hosts break out of their funk. They dodged a big bullet soon afterwards when Kane Elgey was denied a try by the video ref on a tight obstruction call.

Helter-skelter Warriors attack created scoring opportunities during the first 15 mintues, but veteran Titans fullback Michael Gordon snuffed out two dangerous situations in the space of five minutes.

But Fusitu’a – who was denied a by a brilliant Gordon try-saver – blazed over for the opening four-pointer in the 18th minute after excellent lead-up work from Harris and Peta Hiku.

The scoreline ballooned five minutes later as Johnson’s decision to run on the last paid dividends, with the quick hands of Blake Green putting Tuivasa-Sheck on a saloon passage to score under the posts.

The 10-point halftime margin probably didn’t reflect the Warriors’ dominance – winning the run tally 90-67, the tackle-break count 27-12 and the offload column 15-3 – but keeping their try-line intact was a significant achievement.

The Titans’ inability to shut down the Warriors’ second-phase seemed certain to get the scoreboard ticking over again early in the second half, but execution continually let the home side down.

A nice milking effort from Shaun Johnson resulted in a try to Titans winger Phillip Sami being disallowed at the 61-minute mark, and the crucial let-off proved a timely wake-up call.

On the back of a penalty in the ensuing set, Green and Tuivasa-Sheck linked up to give Solomone Kata the necessary space to power over and open up a 14-point buffer.

Fusitu’a iced the result with nine minutes left, spectacularly climbing to take a Johnson bomb on the Titans’ line and bag his second straight double.

The Titans enjoyed some consolation with three minutes left, ex-Warriors crowd favourite Konrad Hurrell grubbering in behind a half-asleep Ken Maumalo for winger Anthony Don to score. The late four-pointer ruined the Warriors’ bid to hold a team try-less for the first time in 75 games.

But it was an ultimately satisfying defensive performance form the Warriors, who will be acutely aware there’s several areas they need to tighten up before next week’s road trip to Canberra.

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