At least the Warriors arrested the slide and stayed in contention for a playoffs spot.

But it's hard to be overly optimistic about their chances of nailing a place in the top eight against the Penrith Panthers in Sydney on Sunday night on the back of a rugged, heartbreaking loss to the tough Sea Eagles yesterday, which could make the Panthers even harder to beat.

Much as it would be nice to be brimming with confidence after the lively thrashing of the Gold Coast, it is hard to forget that the Titans are a troubled club and their weakened team came to Auckland with no top eight hopes.

And they played like it - Greg Bird's niggly moment couldn't hide a team that lacked sufficient fight. It's also hard to forget the Warriors' disappointing form in the previous three weeks.

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The Warriors did just about all they could in the 42-0 hammering of the Gold Coast, but it wasn't entirely unexpected and there was really nothing they could do to convince a sceptic they had suddenly clicked into a title-challenging mood.

While the Panthers have significant long-term injury problems, they are a tough outfit who will go into the final regular season match on the back of a last-minute defeat against hardened opponents in the Manly Sea Eagles.

There is still the horrible suspicion that a big win against a struggling club is the worst possible preparation for these Warriors.

Hats off to the Warriors anyway, for giving their home fans something to cheer about, and there is plenty of action and mathematics to go in the final round.

Andrew McFadden has laid a reasonably good foundation, having taken over in times of trouble this season.

Even one playoff game would mean so much to the club and rugby league in this country, but I've got that horrible feeling ...

Mystique of Log o' WoodFirst, a confession. The Ranfurly Shield doesn't do a lot for this punter any more. Call it big city indifference. Or call it what you like.

Read more: As it happened: Warriors v Titans


But there is no denying that this country's most famous sporting trophy has enough magic left to do a damn good job on the provincial rugby scene.

The shield is like a famous old-style magician who has seen better days, been usurped by the big-scale conjurers, yet can still wow an audience in local halls.

The shield changed hands again over the weekend, having no doubt given Counties Manukau some nice publicity and an emotional and financial boost. Now it's off to Hawkes Bay, whose assistant coach Danny Lee rightly called the shield a "roundabout".

A colleague walked proudly into the office yesterday clad in a Magpies jersey. He was so nervous listening to Saturday's game that he went food shopping during the third quarter.

We were trying to analyse why a lump of wood, a random challenge trophy, still holds so much meaning in what is basically a reserve grade competition.

He said retaining the shield this season was far more important than winning the championship division.

"The championship is too confusing, it's not really separate from the premiership anyway," he said.

"The shield has the mystique, an aura. It's clean-cut, a must-win every game. It's all on the line and keeps producing nail-biting games.

"My grandfather loved to tell us stories about the great shield era of the 20s, and my father still talks about the 1960s era.

"I don't think I'll be sitting my son down and telling him about the time Hawkes Bay got promoted."

As Steelers coach Tana Umaga said: "I can't say enough about what it's done for our community."

A potential problem looms when Canterbury get their hands on the shield.

Then again, the battle to wrestle it away from the overwhelming provincial powerhouse will be a story in itself.

The shield still works, and does good work.