NRL: Woeful NZ Warriors embarrassed by bottom-of-table Gold Coast Titans for second time this season

NZ Warriors have turned in their worst performance of their 2024 NRL season - and for quite a few previous seasons - slumping to a record-equalling 66-6 defeat against Gold Coast Titans, previously at the foot of the competition table. 

Stinging from their Anzac Day loss at Mt Smart against the same opposition, the Warriors had hoped to relaunch their playoff aspirations against their struggling rivals, but now face some serious questions over their chances of reaching the post-season.

Titans winger Alofiana Khan-Pereira scored four tries - his first career hattrick - to snatch the tryscoring lead in the competition.

Wayde Egan wonders where it all went wrong against Gold Coast.
Wayde Egan wonders where it all went wrong against Gold Coast. Photo credit: Photosport

The home team had the first chance to score, after consecutive penalties and a set restart put them on the Warriors goal-line, but Auckland-born lock Erin Clarke spilled the ball in a tackle.

The Warriors' first opportunity ended with winger Marcelo Montoya dragged into touch near the cornerflag in a high tackle that went unpunished.

Both teams wrestled for momentum for almost 20 minutes, before quick hands put Khan-Pereira across out wide. In the process, Warriors second-rower Marata Niukore was put on report for a high tackle, who then spilled a pass on attack.

From that possession, Gold Coast headed back upfield, where former Warrior Kieran Foran provided a short ball for stand-in centre Beau Fermor to score. 

The tropical heat seemed to have taken its toll on the visitors, who were struggling to get out of their own half. Titans forward Isaac Liu rumbled 60 metres, brushing off ineffectual tackles to set up another attack, and hooker Chris Randall slipped a couple more for their third try.

Five-eighth Te Maire Martin was booked for a hipdrop tackle. A penalty put the Warriors at the right end of the park, but a thumping tackle from Foran and second-rower Dylan Walker nullified the threat.

Instead, the Titans roared back on attack and an offload from half Jayden Campbell freed prop Keenan Palasia for another try.

With halftime looming, the Warriors seemed to have finally opened their account, when prop Jackson Ford spun over the tryline, but had the ball dislodged in the tackle. 

In response, fullback Keano Kini split the defence and hooker Sam Verrills took his offload, as the scoreline reached a barely believable 30-0 at the break.

After the restart, the Warriors tried to eat into the lead, with hooker Wayde Egan held up over the line, but as they shifted right, Khan-Pereira pounced on a long pass from half Shaun Johnson and galloped 90 metres for his try double - the 10th of his career.

In his first game back from a hamstring injury, centre Roger Tuivasa-Sheck was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle that was barely worth a penalty, leaving his team shorthanded on defence, and Kini took full advantage, with a try on the other side of the field. 

Next time in possession, Foran put a clever kick behind the defensive line and Campbell was unchallenged to chase it down for the try. 

Marcelo Montoya claims a high ball for the Warriors.
Marcelo Montoya claims a high ball for the Warriors. Photo credit: Photosport

The Warriors finally broke the drought, when captain Tohu Harris was held up short of the tryline, but found Martin to score.

Khan-Pereira soon had his first career hattrick, when Campbell put a kick through, with no defenders in sight. Some sleight-of-hand from Foran on halfway put Kini away for his second try.

Warriors forward Jazz Tevaga was held up over the tryline, but from the ensuing set, Montoya couldn't take Johnson's pass with the corner beckoning, his team's 13th error of the game.

There was still time for Khan-Pereira to notch up a fourth try and the Warriors to match their worst-ever losing deficit - 70-10 against Melbourne Storm in the 2022 Anzac Day match-up.

Gold Coast Titans 66 (Khan-Pereira 4, Kini 2, Fermor, Randall, Palasia, Verrills, Campbell tries; Campbell 11 conversions) NZ Warriors 6 (Martin try; Pompey conversion)