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Titans coach Neil Henry may have found the formula to get the Hayne Plane soaring after an eleventh-hour switch to centre ignited Gold Coast’s enigmatic $1 million man.
Hayne was named at fullback but ended up shifting to left centre where he outpointed Newcastle and Maroons ace Dane Gagai before 10,511 fans at Cbus Super Stadium.
The prospect of a Hayne Origin recall has been furiously debated over the past fortnight. He may still be an outside hope, but if nothing else, Hayne showed NSW coach Laurie Daley he possesses the utility value to be a matchwinner for the Blues.
The Titans recorded one of the biggest wins in their history.
For 40 minutes at Robina, the Titans looked rudderless and in danger of defeat after an insipid first-half helped the lowly Knights claim a surprise 8-6 halftime lead.
But Hayne triggered the fightback. After scoring his side’s only try of the first half, Hayne charged onto an Ashley Taylor pass in the 49th minute to give the Titans a crucial 16-8 advantage.
Ultimately, the Knights fell apart, the Gold Coast posting six second half-ties – and four in the final 20 minutes – to help stabilise their season.
Henry’s troops have now won two consecutive games after last week’s upset of premiers Cronulla and are building the momentum to stay in touch with the top eight.
While Hayne was dangerous, centre partner Konrad Hurrell was also lethal, crossing twice, while prop Ryan James capped a fine game with the match sealer two minutes from time.
The only downside for the Titans was the loss of in-form prop Jarrod Wallace, who failed to return after suffering a headknock in the 37th minute.
While the Titans will be pleased with two consecutive wins, the job is about to get harder – they face a daunting road trip against ladder leaders Melbourne this Saturday.
Knights centre Gagai has been in superb form this season on Newcastle’s right edge and in Hayne, Henry had an Origin star with the power and potency to match him.
Gold Coast dominated in the second half.
Perhaps it was the fatigue factor after last week’s stunning upset of premiers Cronulla, but in the opening exchanges the Coast lost too many one-on-one battles, inviting Newcastle into the contest.
Playing with more energy and enterprise, Newcastle bolted clear at 8-0 after 19 minute. Alarm bells were ringing for the Titans. This was not the team that outenthused and outmuscled the Sharks.
Hayne gave his side hope, and claimed a slice of atonement, with his solo effort in the 24th minute.
Henry should bottle what he said to the Titans at halftime. After the break, they played like the Harlem Globetrotters, displaying more enthusiasm and verve to claim the middle third against a Knights side that gradually wilted.
No one expected the Hayne centre experiment … but it might be just the trick to catapult the Hayne Plane into a sky blue jumper.