Tedesco torments Titans
The last thing a Titans team down on energy needed on Sunday night was a jack-in-the-box on fast forward but that's exactly what they got in Wests Tigers fullback James Tedesco and they had no answer to it.
Whether sweeping out the back on a backline play or running directly at the defensive line only to push away at the last second and look for gaps in the wall elsewhere, Tedesco terrorised the Titans and helped to pull them apart at the seams.
Seven tackle busts, a fortuitous try and a try assist doesn't detail the influence he had on the game and the nightmares he caused for the Titans trying to tackle him.
Denied a try in the first half that a Tigers official said put him in double digits for disallowed tries in 2017, the 24-year-old ran for a game-high 220 metres to go with three offloads and no doubt caused Tigers fans to dread what life will look like without him from 2018.
Eisenhuth stands tall for Tigers
He's the relative unknown that has pushed Elijah Taylor out of his preferred position at lock forward but Matt Eisenhuth is quickly emerging as a key piece of the Tigers' puzzle moving forward. Due to turn 25 in three weeks' time, Eisenhuth has grown in confidence with each week since making his NRL debut in Round 15 and along with prop Tim Grant were the most effective forwards on the field in the opening 20 minutes.
More than his imposing size, Eisenhuth showed a deftness of hands that brings another dimension to the Tigers attack and an excellent work-rate that yielded 112 metres and 31 tackles in 64 minutes on Sunday afternoon.
It's been a long and difficult path to reach the NRL but the Wentworthville junior is giving every indication that he will be around for a long time.
Titans' reshuffle does little for cohesion
After naming John Olive at right centre early in the week Titans coach Neil Henry unveiled what he had been planning all along an hour before kick-off but the disruption to the team's key playmakers may have done more harm than good.
Obviously seeking a way to include as many of his best players as possible with the Titans' season on the line, Henry moved Jarryd Hayne to right centre to cover for the loss of Konrad Hurrell, shifted Tyrone Roberts to fullback and brought Kane Elgey in at five-eighth, Olive missing out altogether.
In a team that was dominated physically for basically the entire game Hayne was the one to threaten while the other three struggled to impose themselves on the contest at all.
At half-time Henry moved Hayne back to fullback and Roberts into the centres but by that time the tone for the game had been well and truly set.
"In hindsight you can say it's disruptive," Henry conceded. "Jarryd's a big body on the right side. We thought we could work their left edge over a bit.
"It was a way of having Kane in the team and Tyrone has played a number of games at fullback and is dangerous out the back."
While the half-time changes were made to get Hayne more involved, it exposed Roberts defensively out wide and the Tigers were quick to pounce.
"I know Tyrone plays a lot of positions but I don't know that he's defended out in the centres much and if you haven't done it it's a pretty hard spot to defend," said Tigers coach Ivan Cleary.
"I guess the guys were smart enough to work that out."
Marsters-class terrorises Titans
Playing in his eighth NRL game of his rookie season Ivan Cleary is waiting for Esan Marsters to go through a down period but it hasn't come yet.
The 20-year-old centre was outstanding for the Tigers on Sunday, scoring his side's opening try running off a superb James Tedesco pass and then providing a special pass of his own to spark Tedesco's try early in the second half that opened the floodgates.
Now having scored tries in four of his past six games, Marsters enjoyed the sweet taste of victory for just the second time since making his debut in Round 13, finishing his night on the Gold Coast with 112 run metres, four offloads and three tackle busts.
"I didn't know a lot but I knew of him," Cleary said of his knowledge of Marsters prior to joining the Tigers.
"A very talented kid. Probably looked at him and thought that he had the ability but probably needs a bit of time and a bit of an adjustment to what the NRL is about.
"To his credit, since we've thrown him in he's done pretty well. Most kids at his level now would be on a bit of a downward turn but he's hanging in there.
"There's a fair way to go for Esan but he's working hard at his game, he's certainly got a lot of ability and he's got a pretty good attitude as well."
Titans kiss finals goodbye for 2017
The autopsy on the Titans' 2017 season can begin after Sunday's meek surrender quashed any hopes they may have had of playing finals football for a second straight year.
No club has used more players than the Titans' 32 in the NRL this season and the astonishing injury toll that decimated their playing group for the first half of the season can be attributed to what is ultimately going to be a disappointing season.
The writing was on the wall when they lost all three of their first-choice hookers to serious injuries in a trial game against the Warriors in February and over the course of the season Jarryd Hayne, Kevin Proctor, Nathan Peats, Tyrone Roberts and Kane Elgey have all missed large chunks of game-time.
When they have had close to their best roster on the park Gold Coast have notched wins over the Sharks (twice), Storm, Eels and Dragons but when their depth was tested they couldn't find a way to eke out wins against the Knights, Tigers, Rabbitohs and Warriors.
The core of the playing group will be back again in 2018 and failure to make the finals won't be viewed with as much forgiveness.
This article first appeared on NRL.com