If all goes to plan for coach Justin Holbrook, David Fifita won't start for Gold Coast any time soon after his bold call to unleash his marquee man from the bench had spectacular results on Sunday.
A fired-up Fifita was unstoppable at times, wreaking havoc off the interchange to inspire a 32-10 thumping of St George Illawarra at Cbus Super Stadium and keep the Titans' finals dream alive.
It was almost men against boys as Fifita scored a barnstorming 34th-minute try and set up another, finishing with two line breaks, one line break assist and 13 tackle busts while running 127 metres.
Fifita produced a one-two punch with impressive debutant halfback Toby Sexton that proved too much for seventh-placed Dragons (8-10), ensuring the Titans (7-11) moved to one win outside the eight with six games remaining.
Match: Dragons v Titans
Round 19 -
Venue: Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast
While Holbrook's call to start his prized back-rower on the bench initially raised eyebrows, he said he would stick to the plan after they beat a top-eight side for the first time this season.
"I had a few chats with Dave this week, had a think about it and thought it was the best option," Holbrook said of benching Fifita.
"There's no need to be playing 80 minutes, it is too hard for back-rowers now. I thought the best way to do it was bring him on after 20-25 minutes today and seemed to work well today.
David Fifita scoring tries only he can
"We had our first chance today and it worked well so that's a good sign. The impact that he brings is massive for us, we have to be smart how we use him."
Fifita had been criticised in a hot and cold debut year at the Titans that included a quiet two games for Queensland before missing State of Origin III due to suspension.
Maroons great Darren Lockyer this week took aim at the hulking forward for "lazy plays", saying he was "letting himself down" for not rolling up his sleeves and doing the one-percenters for the Gold Coast.
But Fifita provided bang for the Titans' buck on Sunday, marking his 11th try in seven games at Cbus Super Stadium. He also took his league leading tally of tackle breaks to 128 in 15 games.
"He has been criticised but ... when the team plays well so does Dave and vice versa - I am happy with the way Dave is going," Holbrook said.
Fifita was a hard act to follow but Sexton did his best to impress as the 20-year-old became the latest stellar addition to the NRL from the Australian Schoolboys' class of 2019.
The Titans big men combine and Wallace has a double
Sexton had stood tall in the Intrust Super Cup for Tweed Seagulls but had been forced to bide his time while ex-Schoolboys teammates Reece Walsh, Sam Walker and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow strutted their stuff in the Telstra Premiership, and in the latter's case, Origin.
Sexton replaced injured Titans skipper Jamal Fogarty (hand) and was quick to show why he is regarded the Gold Coast's long-term playmaker option.
In an NRL debut to remember, he racked up a personal tally of 16 points including a 66th-minute try. "It was similar to how I thought it would pan out," Holbrook said of Sexton's debut.
Welcome to the NRL, Toby Sexton!
"He was very smart, very mature for a 20-year-old. It's like he has 30-year-old's brain which is terrific. He's a good organiser, got a good kicking game and he scored a try which is terrific for him."
Sexton - who recently received an upgraded Titans contract until 2024 - put his early stamp on the game to help Gold Coast race to an 8-0 lead.
He potted over a 12th-minute penalty before delivering a clever chip a minute later that was spilled by Cody Ramsey and cleaned up by Patrick Herbert, gifting Wallace a try.
Sexton won't be fond of looking back at the next try after Ben Hunt brushed past the rookie to score in the 19th minute near the posts and cut the deficit to 8-6 after a 40m Matt Dufty bust.
Fifita gifted the Titans a 14-6 half-time lead when he bulldozed his way over the line carrying three defenders before stunning the Dragons again soon after the resumption.
He threatened to grab a double in the 44th minute but Jack Bird stripped the ball over the line. There was no stopping Fifita a minute later as the wrecking ball drew three defenders before delivering a sublime flick pass for winger Greg Marzhew a try and make it 20-6.
Prop Jarrod Wallace bagged his double in the 61st minute before Sexton pounced on a pass knocked down by Ben Hunt to dart over and score minutes later to blow the scoreline out to 32-6 before the Dragons scored a 76th-minute consolation try by Jordan Pereira.
"That win was really important. Outside the top six everyone is fighting for two spots," Holbrook said.
"Today was really important and so is next week but at least we have kept ourselves in the mix which is what we had to do, we have to get consistent now."
Wallace profits from a Dragons mistake
It was a body blow for the Dragons who have lost two straight as they try to juggle bans for 12 players for a biosecurity breach after Paul Vaughan's infamous barbecue.
Corey Norman was the latest player to cop his medicine on Sunday, handing 19-year-old Jayden Sullivan his first run of the year.
Matt Dufty, Tyrell Fuimaono and Kaide Ellis returned after serving their bans against Manly.
In injury news, Titans centre Brian Kelly came off with an ankle injury in the 57th minute.