Titans eliminate Sharks from finals equation with fiery Warriors rout

Prodigious talent Jayden Campbell has shot the Titans back into finals football for the first time in five years, delivering last rites on Cronulla's own gutsy campaign in the process.

Campbell's five-star showing in a 44-0 thrashing of the listless Warriors came with the same flair and flourish of his old man and club founding father Preston, and pushed the Gold Coast past the 11-point winning margin needed to pinch eighth spot from the Sharks.

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

Another five second-half tries when all the Warriors offered was scuffles and sin bins booked the Gold Coast's first finals berth since 2016 and a sudden death showdown against the Roosters.

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 also sent for a breather in what at one point was 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.

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

But it was Campbell who proved the catalyst in just 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 late-season 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 in the must-win contest from the outset.

His own 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 showdown with Roosters fullback James Tedesco next week, though the match review committee will decide whether fellow playmakers Mitch Rein and Jamal Fogarty are available for the 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 126 more tackles than their opponents, with Campbell carving up tired defenders as a result.

Fifita strolled over untouched after one such break before halftime, 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 and 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.

A final-minute flourish saw prop Moeaki Fotuaika bag a rare try to finish when Campbell could’ve easily swooped for his own hat-trick.

By that point the Titans finals berth had long been sealed, the Sharks own top eight aspirations already long dead in the water.




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Dan Walsh, NRL.com Reporter