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Titans eliminate Sharks from finals equation with fiery Warriors rout

Jayden Campbell played to his infinite potential and well above his pay cheque to shoot the Titans into the finals for the first time in five years, while also delivering last rites on Cronulla's gutsy campaign.

Campbell's five-star, two-try showing in a record 44-0 rout of the Warriors came as the Kiwi side went down fighting in all the wrong ways, losing three players to the sin bin as their 2021 season ended in a series of scuffles and not much else.

Campbell though flourished with the same flair as his old man and club founding father Preston, pushing the Gold Coast past the 11-point winning margin needed to pinch eighth spot from the Sharks.

"Earlier in the year he'd train against us and do some pretty special things against our first-grade side," a relieved Justin Holbrook said of Campbell after his sixth NRL outing.

Given he remained on a bargain basement development deal until last month – when he was tied down with an upgraded extension – Campbell's surprise starring role has come at a steal.

Still just 21 and tipping the scales at 77 kilos (four more than Preston in his pomp), Campbell punched well beyond his weight to help secure a sudden death bout with the Roosters next Saturday afternoon.

"I knew whenever he got the chance he'd be ready for it," Holbrook said.

"It's important for us not to put a lot pressure on him.

"He's just such a natural instinctive type of player ... he had a great game. It's great to have him getting experience at this level and also playing as well as he is."

Campbell gets the Titans the start they need

A 16-0 half-time lead had the Titans already in the top eight.

Another couple of second half tries booked the Gold Coast's first finals berth since 2016 before a series of blow-ups with the game gone saw Warriors Jazz Tevaga, Kane Evans and Matt Lodge all sin-binned.

Titans prop Jarrod Wallace was sent on his way too for what was at one point a 12-on-10 contest.

Lodge gave Gold Coast fans the middle finger on his way off the paddock, the locals unperturbed by a 10-14 regular season record that ranks as the worst of any finals-bound side in the NRL era.

But given it is just the Titans second post-season foray since Campbell senior featured in the club's all too brief 2009-10 golden period, Justin Holbrook will take it.

Marquee bench man David Fifita continued his try-scoring exploits against a weary Warriors outfit, nabbing simple tries in each half to take his season tally to 17 – a new Gold Coast club record.

"That's his best option for us at the minute," Holbrook said of starting Fifita from the bench, before launching a strident defence of his marquee signing as he continues to carry a rib issue.

Fogarty on report for lifting tackle

"He hasn't been 100 per cent himself and he's scored the most tries for a forward in the comp and made the most tackle busts so I think we've got to start enjoying a good player in our competition.

"Rather than thinking about what he can't do, he's not meant to play 80 minutes. If he's stronger and faster than everybody, you can't expect him to be the fittest as well.

"He's got plenty of strengths to his game and that's the way you've got to use him. That's working and I'm happy with him."

Campbell's sixth minute grubber and go from dummy-half got the Gold Coast rolling early as a typically wild Titans ride kicked off.

Fotuaika sends the Titans into the finals in style

Campbell's sixth minute grubber and go from dummy-half got the Gold Coast rolling early as a typically wild Titans ride kicked off.

Campbell has earned himself a No.1 showdown with Roosters lynchpin James Tedesco next week, though the match review committee will decide whether fellow playmakers Mitch Rein and Jamal Fogarty are available for Saturday's sudden death stoush.

Both were cited within the first 10 minutes, with Fogarty's dangerous lifting tackle looking more serious than Rein's contact with Reece Walsh's legs as he launched an early bomb.

Evans (elbow on Beau Fermor) and Lodge (high tackle on Wallace) also wound up on report once the game was long gone.

In reality that point came in the 19th minute when Rein burrowed over from close range, the 12-point lead lifting the Titans above Cronulla on the ladder via points differential.

As errors, penalties and ruck infringements all mounted the Kiwi side ended up making many more tackles than their opponents, with Campbell obligingly carving up tired defenders as a result.

Fifita strolled over untouched after one such break before half-time, then crashed his way through upon the resumption.

Campbell played a lead hand in Brian Kelly's 53rd-minute four-pointer, with the next 15 minutes descending into threats of fisticuffs on not much else.

The youngster's second try – an 80-metre runaway effort – brought an end to the melodrama, not least because defenders and attackers alike couldn't keep up with the latest Campbell livewire.

Press Conference: Titans v Warriors - Round 25, 2021

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