The Gold Coast Titans threw a party on Sunday afternoon and everyone was invited. They promised drama. They promised fireworks. They even organised a special guest.
Over 25,000 people poured through the gates. The event was broadcast around the world. From all angles. This was to be a special occasion. Not just an NRL match of great significance, but an entertainment extravaganza.
While the guest of honour waited patiently to make his arrival, a Tongan performer by the name of Konrad warmed up the crowd with his trademark crash and bash routine. The visitors from New Zealand did their best to contain him, and had even taken the early lead, but that just made the arrival of the Hayne Plane that much more anticipated — when would he get his boarding pass?
Twenty-eight minutes into the performance, we had our answer. Out walked the main act. He dazzled us almost immediately. Within a few moments Konrad was blowing kisses to mum and it appeared the Warriors were doomed. It was Hayne’s party after all. It was he who so many had come to see.
But, ever-so-subtly, the tide began to turn. Much to the disappointment of the event planners, the men from Mt Smart threw away the script and invented their own role — party pooper.
As the Warriors edged ahead through Simon Mannering early in the second half, the Titans were still right in the contest. However, right when it looked like the Hayne Plane was about to take off, David Fusitu’a hit the eject button and turned on the boosters.
Konrad chased him down, but another son of Tonga, Solomone Kata, scored from the very next play, and then stole the show seven minutes later with a fend that will be remembered for many years to come.
When you do that, you’ve probably earned the right to celebrate, even if Big Manu is yelling at you to take it around under the posts.
Hayne did his best to ensure the fans went home happy, showing off a few more tricks from his repertoire as time ticked away, but by then it was too late. The men from Mt Smart emerged victorious and the GC faithful headed for the emergency exits with the knowledge that sometimes you can’t have your cake and eat it too. They saw enough to be thrilled to have the Hayne Plane in the hangar, but they might have to wait until 2017 before they taste the playoffs again.
All in all, a huge win for the Warriors, securing two points for themselves and taking two from a rival. The opportunity to play finals football lies in their hands — have you seen enough to suggest they can they continue the celebrations right through to September? Or, dare we dream, right through to October?
SET OF SIX
1) As much as I tried to steer clear of the Hayne hype, that was a mighty impressive performance for someone who hasn’t played for two years. He saved a try with his first involvement, nearly set one up with his second and looked dangerous almost every time he touched the ball. Obviously it is very early days, but give him a full offseason under his belt and the prospect of Jarryd Hayne in an opposition jumper will be absolutely terrifying.
2) The Blake Ayshford saga continues. I mentioned this last week, and just can’t help but raise it again. Why do the Warriors have an outside back on the bench? Especially when they bring him on in the forwards! Someone please explain the logic because I’m looking very hard for reasons why this makes sense, but so far I’m drawing a blank.
3) Should we be worried about the goal-kicking situation? Jazz Tevaga and Nathaniel Roache did an admirable job filling in around the paddock for Issac Luke, complementing each other with a perfect mix of attack and defence. However, the same can’t be said for the goal-kicking duties. Tui Lolohea looked far from confident, and if Shaun Johnson still isn’t back to full fitness, the men from Mt Smart might need to start scoring a little closer to the posts for the rest of the season.
4) I’ve given up on the NRL.com ladder predictor. Brisbane are collapsing, the Raiders are on the charge, the Tigers beat the Cowboys, Cronulla looked flat and the Storm just keep rolling on — who can predict what will happen in the NRL. A few weeks ago, I was certain 28 points was enough to make the Top 8. Now, with the Tigers, Titans, Warriors and Panthers all fighting for those last two playoff spots, I’m not so sure. The only thing that I am certain of is that the men from Mt Smart can’t afford to take their feet off the gas — there’s no room for error with so many teams playing quality football.
5) The Warriors are winning games with their defence. While the Raiders were embarrassing us in the ’Naki in Round 11, could you ever have imagined the men from Mt Smart would go the next 11 rounds only once conceding 20 points or more (coincidentally also to the Raiders)? They’re scrambling well, look committed and determined on their own line and, most of all, seem to trust each other. Are they starting to look like a team that could give this title a real shake?
6) The NRL should allow striking on anyone who taunts the opposition with a head rub. If someone drops the ball, do you really need to go over and pat them on the head and laugh at them? It’s happening more and more and it’s becoming a bad look for the game. Either ban/fine players for doing it, or let someone give them a whack on the nose. It’ll be gone in two weeks.
FULL MATCH HIGHLIGHTS