The Gold Coast Titans and New Zealand Warriors have played out a 12-all draw in a solid hit-out ahead of round one in front of a sell-out crowd of almost 5000 people at Lismore's Oakes Oval.
The game was played over four 20 minute quarters on a warm afternoon in the Northern Rivers.
In his first game for 2021, Moeaki Fotuaika was enormous in the early stages, and alongside Jarrod Wallace the two props laid the platform for the Titans to attack.
The first opportunity came after just three minutes, with an Ash Taylor grubber kick just finishing too strong for a fast finishing Brian Kelly.
Titans fans got a chance to see what their two Queensland Origin recruits could do, with both David Fifita and Tino Fa’asuamaleaui both exploding to life in the first quarter.
First it was Fifita who cut through the Warriors defence. The following play, the ball found Fa’asuamaleaui who dashed 40 metres to open the scoring for the Titans.
It was the Gold Coast who controlled the first quarter, with Jarrod Wallace crossing for the home sides second try.
A mis-kick bomb fell 20 metres from the try line, before Anthony Don leapt high to regather for the Titans.
Don, originally from Grafton and playing in a home game of sorts, found Wallace who hit the ball at pace to run away to score.
Up 12-0 at the end of the first quarter, the momentum shifted.
New Zealand had the run of play in the second quarter, and it was second rower Josh Curran who beat two Titans defenders close to the line to score his side’s first try.
The Warriors had repeat sets on the Titans line, but the Gold Coast defence held strong to take a 12 points to 6 lead into the break.
AJ Brimson, in his return from a foot injury sustained in State of Origin, was solid at the back but was rested at the 40 minute mark.
Corey Thompson played the second half at the back, but it was his Warriors counterpart that set up the visitors second side.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck accelerated mid-field, beating two Titans defenders before finding Kodi Nikorima in support.
After crossing the line, Nikorima gifted the try to Jazz Tevaga with the Warriors forward’s converted try levelling the scores at the three-quarter time break.
Ash Taylor, Jamal Fogarty, Kevin Proctor, Fifita, Kelly, Fa’asuamaleaui and Anthony Don all joined Brimson and Fotuaika on the bench for the final quarter as the Titans looked to get quality minutes into the wider squad.
Playing on the wing, Patrick Herbert leapt high and almost controlled the ball to give the Titans first points of the final quarter, unable to finish off a strong attacking raid.
The outside back had a strong debut game in Gold Coast colours after backing up from a stint with the Maori All Stars last week.
The Titans had a run of repeat sets at the Warriors line, and it was Herbert who went the closest falling just centremetres short of a try against his old club.
The winger proved a constant threat, with a Toby Sexton kick batted dead as Herbert chased through to give the Titans their fifth chance at the Warriors line.
Playing the final quarter at hooker, Tyrone Peachey provided spark around the ruck, but the Warriors defence held strong with the game finishing in a 12-all draw.
It was a solid hit-out for the Titans, with the two sides to come up against each other again in a fortnight when they meet in round one of the 2021 NRL Premiership season.