Two Manly teams turned up to easily account for the Titans on Saturday but which one emerges in September will determine whether they are premiership dark horses or week one easybeats.
With the forwards rolling, Jake Trbojevic in complete control of the middle and Daly Cherry-Evans and Tom Trbojevic hunting space on the edges, for 40 minutes the Sea Eagles looked all the world a team with top-four aspirations.
They scored four tries and led 20-2 at half-time yet coughed and spluttered their way to the finishing line in a second half that read 10-all for a 30-12 win in front of a crowd of 11,056 against a Titans team that were never truly in the contest.
Errors and penalties punctuated the second term for both teams, the staccato nature of the contest summed up when Cherry-Evans chose to take a shot at penalty goal eight minutes from full-time with his side 16 points in front.
The Sea Eagles skipper shook off the heavy defeat with the Maroons in Origin II to engineer the victory, three line-break assists and two try assists a pleasing bounce-back before going back into Queensland camp for the decider on July 10.
But if Kevin Walters liked what he saw from Cherry-Evans the form of the Trbojevic boys will give him nightmares for the next 11 days.
Match: Titans v Sea Eagles
Round 15 -
Venue: Cbus Super Stadium
- LIVE PASS
The Titans' only points of the first 40 minutes came courtesy of a penalty goal in the fourth minute but from that point on all signs pointed to a Sea Eagles slaughter.
Back-rower Curtis Sironen waltzed through some woeful Titans defence to score a try in his 100th game in the sixth minute and then made it two in very similar fashion 19 minutes later.
A penalty for a strip on centre Moses Suli gave Manly the field position to launch another raid. After Tom Trbojevic was bought down by Bryce Cartwright 10 metres out, Daly Cherry-Evans picked apart a defensive line in retreat to put Sironen across for his second and a 10-2 lead after 27 minutes, Sironen's first double since round 16, 2017.
With the cracks in the dam wall growing wider by the minute, a Nathan Peats kick dead in-goal gave Manly the impetus they needed to score through winger Reuben Garrick and when Jorge Taufua picked up a Dylan Walker tip-on off his toes on the back of a Sironen bust through the middle the visitors had opened up a 20-2 lead nine minutes from half-time.
The Titans then went from bad to ridiculous in the four minutes leading up to half-time.
They looked certain to score following a terrific bust by Brian Kelly but fullback AJ Brimson rolled his own ankle in trying to step opposite number Trbojevic, Sironen spending the end of the first half in the sin bin for tackling Kelly without possession from the ensuing Brimson pass.
Looking to salvage something from the opening 40 minutes, Brimson dropped the ball cold on the second tackle in almost the exact same position that he'd tackled himself in a neat summation of a half in which the Gold Coast made seven errors, conceded five penalties and missed 24 tackles.
The continuation of the Titans' ill-discipline gifted the Sea Eagles a further two points five minutes into the second half and when Suli strolled through untouched from a scrum 20m out in the 53rd minute the inevitable was confirmed.
A Jesse Arthars pass that went to ground finally broke up the Manly defence enough for Tyrone Roberts to put Phil Sami across in the corner but even that came at a cost, Sami left hobbled for the remainder of the game by a left leg injury.
A bizarre 70m 'try' to Brimson was denied in the 61st minute due to Jarrod Wallace shepherding his fullback past Cherry-Evans but the Titans did cross again, Sami grabbing a second in the 68th minute after being a late call-up for Dale Copley.