TWL RD 14 WRAP: WARRIORS HANG ON IN GOLD COAST THRILLER

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What the Warriors lacked in execution, ball-control and 80-minute consistency, they made up for with character in a high-pressure 24-20 eclipse of the equally-desperate Gold Coast Titans.

After giving up an early 10-point lead, the Warriors endured an error-riddled second half peppered with rough refereeing decisions. But they hung in to bank a couple of rare attacking chances inside the last 15 minutes, before surviving a late scare.

The win could see the Warriors – pilloried after last week’s collapse to Melbourne that saw them sink to 13th – finish the weekend in 10th spot.

Ken Maumalo was a two-try hero amidst another metre-eating masterclass, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck returned to his best after a couple of subpar outings, the beleaguered Blake Green came up big in the second half, and the maligned Warriors pack ultimately held their own.

Milestone man Adam Blair’s 300th NRL game – just the third New Zealander to reach the mark – ended with a last-minute sin-binning for a trademark late hit on Titans playmaker Tyrone Roberts.

But it was a victory to keep in perspective: the erratic Titans are second-last and battled on with a two-man bench from midway through the first half.

It was a dream start for the visitors.

On the back of a ruck penalty earned by Tohu Harris, hooker Karl Lawton – who overcame a bout of gastro to grab a late call-up to the run-on side – burrowed over from dummy-half against his old club in the third minute.

A questionable forward-pass call against the Titans allowed the Warriors to cross for their second in the 12th minute.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck’s speed and footwork from a sweeping scrum play shredded Gold Coast’s right-side defence out wide, allowing Ken Maumalo to steam in for his ninth try of 2019.

Kodi Nikorima curled the touchline conversion attempt into the post, leaving the score at 10-0.

The Titans began to find some traction, troubling the Warriors with their second-phase and adlib play, as well as attracting back-to-back penalties in quick succession.

Their much-needed first try was worryingly soft, with halfback fill-in Ryley Jacks beating Harris for pace close to the try-line.

The Warriors’ lead disappeared after another tackle-busting run from centre Brian Kelly put the Titans on the attack. The hosts’ pace across the park, quick hands and ability to keep the ball alive eventually found a huge overlap, with Kelly fittingly finishing off in the corner.

Tyrone Roberts nailed the conversion to edge the Titans in front.

Jai Arrow (ankle) left the field in a big blow for Gold Coast – and potentially Queensland – to join Tyrone Peachey (pec) on the sideline.

A Kelly error opened the door for the Warriors, who levelled up at 12-all following a subsequent accidental offside penalty in front of the Titans’ goalmouth. That’s where the score remained at halftime – a disappointing outcome given the Warriors’ flying start, but they were arguably lucky to head to the sheds with a share of the lead following the palpable momentum shift in the match.

Infuriatingly unnecessary offloads from Peta Hiku and Jazz Tevaga gave the Titans gilt-edged attacking chances in quick succession soon after the break.

Tevaga gave away a penalty and came up with a handling error to complete a horror stretch. The Warriors’ goal-line defence found some steel, though, and they began making inroads through the Titans’ middle.

The impasse stretched beyond the hour-mark as the desperation of both teams’ seasons effectively being on the line took hold.

A dubious stripping penalty in front of the Warriors’ posts with 16 minutes left saw Roberts boot the Titans back into the lead. The tough call came only seconds after an obviously incorrect knock-on decision against Patrick Herbert as officiating threatened to yet again bring the Warriors undone in 2019.

The Warriors’ riposte came out of nowhere. A pressured Blake Green found space to run on the last and (after ignoring a huge overlap on the outside) found Tuivasa-Sheck backing up on the inside to score the go-ahead try.

Nikorima threatened to throw the game away with a risky pass, but Titans rookie speedster Jesse Arthars could not grasp the hot chance.

The Warriors camped down on the Titans’ line and brilliant quick hands from Nikorima and Hiku created a chance for Maumalo, who produced a brilliant diving finish with centimetres to spare. Luke buried the conversion from the sideline.

But Titans fullback AJ Brimson’s searing speed set up a grandstand finish, scoring out wide with four minutes to go.

Roberts slotted the conversion to cut the deficit to just four points.

Leeson Ah Mau had the ball stripped from him 30 metres out from the Warriors’ line, presenting the Titans with a late chance to snatch the game.

The drama ramped up another notch when Blair was sin-binned with 45 seconds to go for a grubby late hit on Roberts. But the 12-man Warriors held on for a potentially season-saving win.

It was miles off a complete performance from the Warriors. But after last week’s capitulation – and struggling to claw back from behind and close out tight games all season – it was a small step in a positive direction.

There was a certain toughness and composure that the Warriors can carry forward and use to rescue their campaign.

In a nice touch, the Warriors were awarded the newly-struck Zae Wallace Shield, named in honour of the Auckland junior and Titans NYC player who tragically passed away at just 20 years of age recently.

NRL ROUND 14: Warriors 24 (Ken Maumalo 2, Karl Lawton, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck tries; Issac Luke 3, Kodi Nikorima goals) defeated Titans 20 (Ryley Jacks, Brian Kelly, AJ Brimson tries; Tyrone Roberts 4 goals) at Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast

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