NZ Warriors have saved their most insipid performance of the 2021 NRL season for last, presenting Gold Coast Titans with easy passage into the post-season with a 44-0 capitulation at Cbus Super Stadium.
The Titans entered the game outside the competition's top eight teams, needing to win by 11 points to edge past Cronulla Sharks and into the playoffs.
But with their hopes buried for another season, the Warriors never showed any resistance and allowed their rivals to pile on the points needed - and more - in a one-sided encounter.
Adding insult to injury, they were reduced to just 10 players late, after a series of scuffles saw three players yellow-carded.
The visitors started promisingly and seemed to score first in the opening minutes, when winger Marcelo Montoya reclaimed a high kick and sent Chanel Harris-Tavita away, but second-rower Euan Aitken lost the ball over the tryline, before he could force it.
Rookie Jayden Campbell put the Titans on the board, running from dummy half, cleverly dribbling a kick over the goal-line and forcing for the try.
Hooker Mitch Rein snatched their second, when he also caught the Warriors defence napping from dummy half, diving across the line to score. Jamal Fogarty’s conversion put his team ahead 12-0, past Cronulla Sharks on the live competition ladder and - provisionally - into the playoffs.
The Warriors were their own worst enemies, committing error after error to repeatedly gift possession back to their opponents. They also lost second-rower Euan Aitken to a hamstring injury early.
Gold Coast finally took toll of that advantage, when Campbell again split the defence, found utility Tyrone Peachey in support, with star forward David Fifita charging across to score out wide.
Trailing 16-0 at halftime, the Warriors were penalised immediately after the restart, presenting the Titans with another opportunity, as Fifita barged over from dummy half.
The Warriors were over the line again, when winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak rolled over in the corner, but Josh Curran’s final pass was ruled forward.
Instead, Titans centre Brian Kelly finished off another raid, with Campbell providing the final pass.
Frustration finally boiled over, when centre Rocco Berry was bundled roughly into touch and teammates rushed in to retaliate. Forward Jazz Tevaga was sin-binned and the Warriors were down to 12 men.
Moments later, after another scuffle, Matt Lodge and Kane Evans joined Tevaga on the sidelines, leaving their team with just 10 players on the field.
Immediately, with huge gaps in the defence, former Warriors centre Patrick Herbert scored against his old outfit and the final siren could not come quickly enough, as Campbell ran 80 metres for his second try of the day.
Gold Coast Titans 44 (Jayden Campbell 2, Mitch Rein, David Fifita 2, Moeaki Fogarty, Brian Kelly tries; Jamal Fogarty 6 conversions) NZ Warriors 0
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