Titans v Bulldogs: Five Key Points
Canterbury's forwards show their versatility, Titans' loss a microcosm of their season, Michael Lichaa cuts loose in attack and Jarryd Hayne fails to fire after controversial fortnight.
Dogs forwards showcase their skill
Some would argue that losing their chief playmaker played right into the hands of Bulldogs coach Des Hasler whose raft of skilful forwards stepped up to guide the team to their ninth win of the season.
Moses Mbye was forced from the field after just 17 minutes after copping a knock from Titans prop Jarrod Wallace and when he failed to pass his head injury assessment Josh Jackson's cameo at five-eighth turned into a starring role.
The next New South Wales coach won't be considering shifting Jackson to the No.6 jersey on Saturday's performance against the Titans but the rugged back-rower was more than serviceable as he and Matt Frawley engineered the 26-14 win.
The loss of Brett Morris from Canterbury's left edge forced another reshuffle and at one point all the players left of centre field bar Josh Morris were big blokes more accustomed to playing in far tighter, Aiden Tolman twice finding himself next to the sideline as acting dummy-half.
Adam Elliott filled in on the wing for a period in the second term but his awkward goal-kicking attempts suggested the Bulldogs need to find another back-up to Mbye before next Sunday.
Loss a microcosm of Titans' season
They made basic errors, their attack was clunky, they were exposed defensively on the edges, they suffered a number of serious injuries and Jarryd Hayne was largely ineffective; Saturday's loss summed up everything that has gone wrong for the Titans in 2017.
Five days since the sacking of coach Neil Henry there was the expectation that the Titans would show the type of spirit that had endeared them to so many footy fans the past 18 months but after a sloppy opening they conceded 20 points in the space of 22 minutes to lose touch with the Dogs.
There was a glimmer of hope midway through the second half after tries to Tyrone Roberts and Anthony Don but a lack of cohesion was made even worse when captain Nathan Peats was forced from the field with a shoulder injury.
Dale Copley had left the field earlier with a groin injury and neither he nor Peats are expected to be right to take on the Roosters in Round 26.
Lichaa lights up Bulldogs' attack
We may never know what exactly happened to Michael Lichaa during his three-year stint at the Bulldogs but with one game left to play for the club the 24-year-old is showing the type of attacking spark that made him such a highly regarded junior talent.
For the first time since Round 19, 2015 Lichaa ran for more than 100 metres and he was integral in getting the Bulldogs off to a flyer, providing the pass for the opening two tries to Will Hopoate and David Klemmer.
He almost scored one himself when he was held up in the 65th minute and after playing just 21 minutes between Round 17 and Round 24 seems determined to finish 2017 showcasing his attacking capabilities.
No apparent change in Hayne
He has been inextricably linked to the sacking of coach Neil Henry and whether fair or not, many predicted Jarryd Hayne would emerge from a tumultuous fortnight of headlines to prove he still has much to offer as a player.
Only he didn't, certainly not one taking up the percentage of the Titans' salary cap that Hayne is.
The 29-year-old showed promising signs early with some charges deep in his side's half designed to get his team on the front foot but they seemed to dry up as the Bulldogs piled on the points.
On set plays where he was involved he was easily picked off by the likes of Josh Morris and Danny Fualalo and when a pass intended for Ash Taylor fell into his hands on the last tackle midway through the second half he kicked well out on the full from 35m out from the Titans' try-line.
As his side searched for points to bridge the gap a lazy no-look pass from Hayne sailed forward instead of hitting its intended target and even when he launched a bomb that ultimately led to a try for Anthony Don he himself didn't chase through to get involved in the play.
The Titans don't get the chance to renegotiate the terms of his contract for 2018 but perhaps the rest of us need to rethink our expectations of what Hayne can now deliver.
Sami a rare Titans bright spot
If Jarryd Hayne is no longer looking like his younger self one young man who does possess a devastating running game is Titans rookie Phillip Sami.
Still eligible for the under-20s competition, Sami made his NRL debut against the Rabbitohs in Round 15 and has shown great promise since earning further first grade starts the past two weeks.
Moved in to centre for the injured John Olive after playing on the wing last week, Sami looked the most dangerous of Gold Coast's ball runners and was justly rewarded for his efforts with the first try of his NRL career two minutes from full-time.
Coach Terry Matterson described Sami as one of the Titans' few bright spots in a difficult period for the club and it appears he is destined to score plenty more four-pointers in the years to come.