The Vodafone Warriors hopes of making the NRL finals have been given a massive shot in the arm following a record setting victory over the Gold Coast Titans today.
The Titans were held to nil for the first time in the club’s history, going down 0-42 to the Vodafone Warriors at Mt Smart Stadium.
The big win has the Vodafone Warriors in ninth place and knocking on the door of the playoffs, aided by the Parramatta Eels defeat by Newcastle earlier in the round.
The Vodafone Warriors got off to the perfect start when a soaring bomb by Shaun Johnson was fumbled by Titans fullback William Zillman.
Slick passing inside Gold Coast’s red zone sent second-rower Ben Henry over on the right side for a 6-0 lead in the third minute, with Johnson adding the extra two points.
Another mistake by Zillman had the Vodafone Warriors on the hunt again, this time the fullback knocking on a grubber kick by Johnson.
The lead was soon 12-0 when Thomas Leuluai put on a deft short ball for left centre Dominique Peyroux to dot down, followed by Johnson’s conversion.
The Titans, playing in their second match under interim head coach Neil Henry, were shell-shocked by the fast start.
The Vodafone Warriors hard-running outside backs made it look like a training session as they made easy metres up the field.
Hooker Nathan Friend increased the lead to 18-0 with his converted try inside the first quarter, weaving his way out of dummy half from close to the line.
The Titans’ best chance came on the half-hour mark when they forced a goal-line dropout, but the fifth tackle option was lacking.
Johnson’s powerful boot was to the fore when a penalty to the Vodafone Warriors was drilled deep into Titans’ territory.
Back-to-back sets stretched Gold Coast’s already tiring defence, allowing Vodafone Warriors fullback Sam Tomkins to jink his way to a try for 24-0 after Johnson’s conversion.
Centre Konrad Hurrell then got in on the try-scoring action in the shadows of halftime for a 30-0 lead to the Vodafone Warriors at the break.
The scoring spree had them on pace to overtake the Brisbane Broncos into eighth place on points differential, with the Vodafone Warriors 49 points behind Brisbane going into the match.
Early in the second half, Johnson forced a repeat set when Zillman was forced to parry the ball dead from an incisive grubber.
The extra possession reaped rewards when Tomkins outleaped tall Gold Coast winger Anthony Don to snare a cross-field kick and post his second try of the afternoon.
Johnson’s terrorising of Zillman continued when he beat the Titans custodian on a scything run for a converted try of his own, to give the Vodafone Warriors the 42-0 final score.
The match was only marred by Ngani Laumape being placed on report following a melee with Titans enforcer Greg Bird.
The result puts the Vodafone Warriors’ finals destiny in their own hands.
If the Broncos win against the Storm in Melbourne Storm on Friday, the Vodafone Warriors will need to beat the Panthers and surpass the Broncos on for-and-against in the final match of the regular season in Penrith next Sunday.
Vodafone Warriors: 42 (Ben Henry, Dominique Peyroux Nathan Friend, Sam Tomkins (2), Konrad Hurrell, Shaun Johnson tries; Shaun Johnson seven conversions)
Gold Coast Titans: 0
Referees: Gavin Badger and Chris James.
Vodafone Warriors: Sam Tomkins; Ngani Laumape, Konrad Hurrell, Dominique Peyroux, Manu Vatuvei; Thomas Leuluai, Shaun Johnson; Jacob Lillyman, Nathan Friend, Ben Matulino; Ben Henry, Simon Mannering (c), Sione Lousi. Interchange: Sam Rapira, Suaia Matagi, Sebastine Ikahihifo, Jayson Bukuya.