THE RIVALRY: WARRIORS V TITANS

The Warriors’ 11-season rivalry with the Gold Coast Titans can be neatly divided into two parts, with the holiday strip-based club enjoying the early running before the Warriors wrested control in 2011. The large Kiwi expat population in southeast Queensland has ensured big crowds whenever the Warriors venture to the Gold Coast.

Overall record: Played 23 – Warriors won 16, Gold Coast Titans won 7; Warriors scored 578 points, Gold Coast Titans scored 408 points.

Biggest wins: Warriors – 42-0 at Mount Smart Stadium, 2014; Gold Coast Titans – 30-10 at Mount Smart Stadium, 2009.

Longest winning streaks: Warriors – 8 matches (2011-14); Gold Coast Titans – 6 matches (2008-10).

Finals: Played 1 – Gold Coast Titans won 1.

Most appearances: Simon Mannering (Warriors) – 21; Manu Vatuvei (Warriors) – 18; Ben Matulino (Warriors) – 18; Jacob Lillyman (Warriors) – 17; Nathan Friend (Warriors & Gold Coast Titans) – 16; Mark Minichiello (Gold Coast Titans) – 15.

Most tries: Manu Vatuvei (Warriors) – 11; Shaun Johnson (Warriors) – 10; Konrad Hurrell (Warriors & Gold Coast Titans) – 7; David Mead (Gold Coast Titans) – 7.

Most points: Shaun Johnson (Warriors) – 100; Scott Prince (Gold Coast Titans) – 66; James Maloney (Warriors) – 46.

The Auckland Warriors played the previous incarnations of the Gold Coast club three times. A Tea Ropati hat-trick spearheaded a 44-16 romp for the Warriors over the Seagulls at home in 1995, while current coach Stephen Kearney was among the try-scorers in a 28-14 win against the Chargers at Carrara the following season. A double from Chargers livewire Wes Patten laid the platform for a 31-18 upset for the soon-to-be defunct club during the 1998 NRL season.

2007-10 – Titans rack up winning streak after initial losses

The Gold Coast Titans produced an admirable debut campaign in the NRL in 2007, but the Warriors chalked up two convincing wins on their way to a top-four berth. A crowd of 17,608 turned out at Carrara Stadium to see the Warriors prevail 22-6 in Round 16, while six weeks later halfback Grant Rovelli notched a hat-trick and Jerome Ropati bagged a double in a 30-6 rout at Mount Smart Stadium.

But the Titans outlasted the Warriors 36-24 early in 2008 in front of a bumper crowd of 25,310 at the newly-opened Skilled Park at Robina. The clubs clashed twice in the second half of the 2009 season, and the high-flying Titans won comfortably at home (28-12) and away (30-10) as the Warriors dipped out of finals contention.

The rivals met in Round 1 of 2010, with Titans fullback Preston Campbell inspiring a 24-18 victory. Meanwhile, a 28-20 late-season win at Mount Smart Stadium – with Warriors great Clinton Toopi returning to the ground for the first time in Titans colours – proved crucial to the Titans finishing fourth ahead of the fifth-placed Warriors.

Qualifying final, 2010 – Titans subdue Warriors in gripping playoff
The Gold Coast Titans chalked up a historic maiden finals win by downing the Warriors 28-16 at Skilled Park. The home side powered to a 22-6 halftime lead through a Will Zillman double and tries to Mat Rogers and ex-Warrior Clinton Toopi, with the visitors’ only try scored by Aaron Heremia. A monumental comeback was in the offing when Joel Moon and Manu Vatuvei (who overtook Stacey Jones as the Warriors’ greatest-ever try-scorer) posted the first two four-pointers of the second half, but the Titans sealed an absorbing finals opener when Kevin Gordon dotted down. The win was the Titans’ sixth in succession over the Warriors, who were subsequently bundled out of the finals later that weekend courtesy of the fickle McIntyre Finals System format.

2011-16 – Warriors turn the tables

The Warriors wasted no time in gaining revenge for their finals exit at the hands of the Titans the previous season, racking up a pair of emphatic wins over the eventual wooden-spooners in 2011. A David Mead hat-trick wasn’t enough for the Titans as they went down 34-14 to the Warriors at home, with James Maloney posting 18 points. The Warriors won 22-6 later in the season on their way to another finals berth.

It was a similar story in 2012, with Shaun Johnson scoring a double to lead the Warriors to a 26-6 home win and a treble from rookie centre Konrad Hurrell highlighting a 32-14 result on the road. The Warriors gained an instant crowd favourite that season in the form of foundation Titan Nathan Friend. The gap closed the following season, but the Warriors managed wins in Auckland and Gold Coast for the third straight year…just.

The Warriors led the Titans 24-6 at a rain-soaked Mount Smart in Round 8 of the 2013 season, before the visitors staged a withering second half fight-back. A Shaun Johnson field goal gave the hosts a crucial seven-point buffer before Anthony Don’s late try made the final score 25-24.

Round 24, 2013 – Warriors stay alive with nail-biting win
The Warriors held on for a heart-stopping 24-22 win over the Titans in a high-stakes clash at Skilled Park. With both sides striving to stay in the finals race, the Titans got out to a 16-10 halftime lead thanks to a Ryan James double. A memorable solo try by Konrad Hurrell levelled the scores and Shaun Johnson laid on Jerome Ropati’s second to give the Warriors their first lead of the game in the 62nd minute. Trailing by eight with four minutes left, the Titans set up a grandstand finish when Anthony Don zipped over in the corner. But in an unbelievable conclusion, Gold Coast winger Kevin Gordon was denied a match-winning try when he spectacularly regathered a kick only to plant it on the dead-ball line. The result saw the Warriors join the Titans in a five-team logjam in equal-eighth with two rounds remaining, but both teams were ultimately shaded by the Cowboys.

Rookie winger David Fusitu’a scored a double in a 24-16 away win in 2014, while Sam Tomkins bagged a brace of tries and Shaun Johnson scored 18 points in a 42-0 shutout in the penultimate round at Mount Smart as the Warriors extended their winning streak against the Titans to eight games.

An inability to keep piling on the tries in the final quarter of the latter clash would prove crucial, however, with the Warriors missing out on eighth spot a week later by a mere eight for-and-against points.

The Titans scored a drought-breaking 32-28 win in Auckland as part of the NRL’s five-match schedule on ANZAC Day, 2015. New No.7 Kane Elgey scored two tries for the visitors in that clash, but Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson produced one of his finest displays in the return clash at Cbus Super Stadium in Round 15, scoring two dazzling tries and kicking six from six for a 20-point haul.

Johnson’s long-range solo try was the highlight of a 27-18 success at Mount Smart in Round 17 of the 2016 campaign, before the arrival of a superstar on the holiday strip set up a feverishly-anticipated clash between the finals contenders at Robina five weeks later.

Round 22, 2016 – Warriors spoil Hayne’s party
The Titans’ biggest home crowd in five years turned out for Jarryd Hayne’s first game for the club, but the Warriors threw the fairytale script out the window with a high-quality 24-14 win in front of 25,109 supporters. In an absorbing first half, the Warriors scored first via a spectacular David Fusitu’a try but Konrad Hurrell – who linked with the Titans from the Warriors mid-season – scored to create a 10-all haltime deadlock, while Hayne came up with a number of big plays. But intercepts by Fusitu’a, which led to a Solomone Kata try, and Kata himself, who plucked a Hayne pass out of the air and raced 90 metres for an unforgettable four-pointer, put the Warriors on course for victory. The Warriors missed the finals after losing their four remaining games, however, while the Titans ended a six-year finals absence by scraping into eighth spot.

Kieran Foran’s belated first appearance for the Warriors in Round 5 of 2017 sparked a much-needed 28-22 win over the Titans in Auckland. A convincing 34-12 win at Robina in Round 14 in Ryan Hoffman’s 300th NRL game would be the Warriors’ only away win of the season – and their second-last victory overall in a disastrous campaign.

The Warriors boasted a distinct Titans flavour heading into 2018 after signing Auckland junior Agnatius Paasi and Leivaha Pulu, as well as utility Karl Lawton.

The Titans were buried under a Warriors offload frenzy in a 20-8 loss in Auckland in Round 2 of the 2018 season, their sixth straight defeat in the rivalry.

 

THEY PLAYED FOR BOTH CLUBS

Clinton Toopi: Regarded by many as the greatest centre in the Warriors’ history, Toopi debuted in 1999 and scored 57 tries in 129 games for the club. The 22-Test Kiwi joined Leeds Rhinos late in 2006, but returned to the NRL with the Titans in 2010, playing 27 games in two seasons.

Nathan Friend: After several seasons as a fringe player with Brisbane and Melbourne, hardworking hooker Friend joined the fledgling Titans and became the first player to make 100 appearances for the club. He joined the Warriors in 2012 and was one of their most consistent performers in a four-season stint that garnered 86 appearances. The evergreen No.9 returned to the Gold Coast for a farewell season in 2016, retiring after playing another 21 games for the Titans.

Dominique Peyroux: Auckland-born Peyroux played his junior footy for Otahuhu, Mangere East and Papatoetoe, but he earned his NRL spurs with the Titans in 2011, playing 16 games in the top flight across two seasons. The centre/back-rower returned to Auckland in 2013 and played 25 first grade games for the Warriors, while also representing Cook Islands and Samoa during his stint at the club.

Bodene Thompson: A Tauranga City Sharks product, Thompson played 49 games in four seasons for the Titans (2009-12) and represented New Zealand Maori. Predominantly a back-rower, Thompson proved a useful centre option and played 36 games for Wests Tigers in 2013-14 before returning to New Zealand with the Warriors in 2015. Thompson scored 18 tries in 58 appearances for the Warriors and was unlucky to have not earned his Kiwis Test stripes before heading to Super League at the end of 2017.

Agnatius Paasi: Born in Tonga, Paasi came through the Mangere East junior ranks before featuring in the Warriors’ NYC grand final win in 2011, the same year he played for the Junior Kiwis. He ultimately played just one first grade game for the club – in 2014 – before enjoying a breakout season with the Titans in 2015, featuring in 18 games. After starring at the NRL Auckland Nines at the start of 2016, the dynamic forward played all 25 games as a key figure in the Titans’ surge to the finals. He made 11 appearances in an injury-interrupted 2017 campaign before accepting an offer to return to the Warriors, where he has shone in 16 appearances this year.

Konrad Hurrell: An explosive, crowd-pleasing centre who starred in the Warriors’ 2011 NYC grand final success, Hurrell stormed onto the NRL scene in 2012 with 12 tries in 17 games. The backline powerhouse scored 41 tries in 71 first grade games for the Warriors, but made a mid-season switch to the Titans in 2016 after struggling to nail down a permanent spot in the top side. Hurrell has found the most consistent form of his career for Gold Coast while still producing the occasional match-winning turn. He boasts 13 tries in 39 appearances for the club so far and ventured to Mount Smart as a Titan for the first time in Round 2 this year.

Leivaha Pulu: Late-blooming forward Pulu was a Marist Saints junior before moving to Australia and coming through the decorated Keebra Park High system. After plugging away in Wests Tigers’ lower grades for several seasons and stints at Windsor Wolves, French club Lezignan and Wyong Roos, Pulu finally received his NRL shot with the Titans in the opening round of 2016 just before his 26th birthday. The rugged backrower played 45 games for the club before returning home with the Warriors in 2018 and debuting in their momentous Round 1 win over South Sydney in Perth. Pulu was sidelined for three months after suffering an injury in Round 6 but recently returned to action via reserve grade.

Karl Lawton: Murwillumbah-born utility Lawton debuted as a centre for the Titans against the Warriors in 2016 but broke his leg in the Mount Smart Stadium encounter. He recovered to play 11 NRL games at hooker and off the bench in 2017, before being snapped up by the Warriors on the eve of the 2018 premiership. The 22-year-old scored a match-sealing double off the bench against Wests Tigers on club debut and has made six appearances for the Warriors in the top flight so far.

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