New captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck has played a key role in the Warriors’ five-try 26-6 NRL trial win over Gold Coast in Palmerston North.
The 23-year-old ex-Sydney Rooster played a strong hand in the first three tries, and also featured in a solid game-long defensive effort.
Tuivasa-Sheck was playing his second game back since a serious knee injury ended his 2016 season after just seven games.
Awarded the captaincy two weeks ago, Tuivasa-Sheck is finding his feet in the unfamiliar role.
“I’m feeling comfortable, especially with the boys around me – they’re helping me, they’re supporting me,” he said.
“I haven’t done so much stuff as a captain, I’ve just been one of the boys yelling out the calls and reminding them of their jobs.”
While the win was a satisfying result, fullback Tuivasa-Sheck said there was still plenty of work to do.
“We ran OK today – happy to see that some of our stuff worked. There was definitely a lot of stuff that didn’t, and we need to improve.”
The signs were encouraging with slick handling and strong running from Tuivasa-Sheck and playmaker Shaun Johnson keeping the Titans on the back foot.
The pressure finally told after 20 minutes, with 18-year-old Isaiah Papalii dotting down on a repeat set of six off a late Tuivasa-Sheck popped pass.
Winger Tuimoala Lolohea crossed for the Warriors’ second after 33 minutes, finishing off a sweeping move which featured the quick hands of Issac Luke, Johnson and the ever-present Tuivasa-Sheck.
Johnson nailed a tricky conversion, and the Warriors looked set to take a 10-0 lead into the break until a clever Ashley Taylor grubber in behind the line popped up perfectly for centre John Olive.
The Warriors’ 10-6 halftime lead opened out to 14-6 when David Fusitu’a ran onto another perfectly timed Tuivasa-Sheck short ball, then James Gavett bulldozed over for a fourth with 15 minutes remaining.
Ex-captain Simon Mannering pounced on a loose ball from a Johnson grubber with less than five minutes to go, completing a promising showing two weeks out from the Warriors’ season-opener against Newcastle.
The Titans, resting Jarryd Hayne, finished the match with a worrying injury toll which included a rib cartilage injury to Ryan Simpkins and a shoulder problem for Nathan Peats.
Tyler Cornish and Morgan Boyle both took head knocks in the second half and left the field, before Pat Politoni was forced off late with an arm injury.
The Warriors escaped more lightly. A minor foot strain forced Ryan Hoffman from the field in the first half and Gubb will have a precautionary X-ray on a sore neck following a tackle.