Gold Coast have taken another step towards securing their first NRL finals berth in six years with a comfortable 26-6 victory over last-placed Newcastle at Hunter Stadium.
The Titans (27 points) on Saturday consolidated eighth spot on the ladder with two games remaining against Penrith (home) and North Queensland (away), and extended the Knights’ club-record losing streak to 16.
The only concern for the Titans was when code-hopping recruit Jarryd Hayne was helped off in the 65th minute after taking a head knock in a tackle involving fellow Fijian international Jacob Saifiti.
Hayne, who took no further part in the match, had played a mostly supporting role in his third game back in the NRL, taking a back seat to his forwards who scored all four tries for the Titans.
Co-captain Ryan James, a controversial inclusion, crashed over twice in the first 20 minutes as the Titans raced to an 18-0 lead.
James was considered fortunate to have been on the field, having been found guilty of a grade-two careless high tackle that broke Wests Tigers fullback James Tedesco’s jaw. The fiery front-rower was cleared to play after the judiciary panel downgraded his charge to grade one.
Former Queensland utility forward Chris McQueen scored in the 16th minute as the Titans threatened to hand the Knights another thrashing on home turf, but winger Nathan Ross responded with a 90-metre intercept try in the 28th minute, cutting the deficit to 18-6 at halftime.
Titans prop Luke Douglas burrowed over from a quick tap to score in the 50th minute, extending the visitors’ lead to 24-6, then former Knights halfback Tyrone Roberts added a penalty goal five minutes from fulltime.
After missing the past two games because of a knee injury, Roberts returned against his old club in place of regular playmaker Ash Taylor, who was rested to recover from several niggles.
Chasing their first win in 133 days, and only their second of the season, Newcastle (seven points) remain anchored at the bottom of the ladder and will collect their second-successive wooden spoon.
The Knights were always at long odds to end their four-month losing streak but their chances were not enhanced by the late withdrawal of Jarrod Mullen (knee) and Sione Matautia (concussion).