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ANALYSIS: Dolphins give Souths scare, but Walker and Mitchell can't be stopped as Bunnies start to look scary

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13th April, 2023
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They got there in the end, but not without a fright. Apprentice beat master, Jason Demetriou beat Wayne Bennett and the Bunnies beat the Dolphins 36-14.

It took a second half clinic from the Bunnies, who trailed 14-6 at the break before blowing their dogged opponents away in a blitz that began early and went into overdrive after Kenny Bromwich was binned in the 61st minute.

While it was 13 v 12, Souths scored three and the Dolphins went seven minutes without touching the footy. Cody Walker put on all three and was excellent. Latrell Mitchell, with a try and and an assist of his own, was close behind him.

Campbell Graham, too, grabbed another and put his hand up again for an Origin jersey, though that might be an issue for Keaon Koloamatangi, who left with a lower leg injury. Demetriou said he was a chance for next week given an extended turnaround time.

Cam Murray might also find himself in trouble with the judiciary after being twice put on report, and he might be joined by Davvy Moale after an alleged trip.

“We’re lukewarm,” said Demetriou when asked if this showing, allied to last week’s 50-point performance against the Bulldogs, was a sign of his side hitting a hot streak.

“There’s still a fair bit to go. We’re building the way we want to be and we’ve got some areas we need to improve if we want to get results in those.”

The Souths coach added that his side had been put off their stride, but once they wrested back initative, they had the talent to take over.

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“We weren’t getting field position and were coming out of our own end for large parts of the first half and weren’t able to get the ball into Cody and Latrell’s hands,” said Demetriou.

“When he gets the ball in position like he does, he’s the best five eighth in the game. He’s a pleasure to coach when he’s in that kind of mood.

“I was happy with their response. They’re an honest group and know when they’re not quite where they need to be. 

“That’s not to discredit the Dolphins – they were great in the first half, completions were in the 80s and there was a lot of ball in play and fatigue in the game. They brought the game to us and we had to ride through that. Once we did, I thought we got some momentum.”

Bennett was at his taciturn best in the Dolphins press conference, but questioned a first half decision to award Graham a try despite a push in the back and the call to bin Bromwich.

“There’s been a lot of sin binnings this season,” he said. “I haven’t been counting but there’s been plenty of them.

“We’re all big enough to overcome that stuff. That’s the call, that’s the call.”

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Styles make fights

They say that styles make fights, and as far as that is concerned, Souths were always at risk from the Dolphins.

The Bunnies are about as far from the safety-first, controlled footy that Redcliffe play as it is possible to get in the NRL, but that has made them more vulnerable than Demetriou would like to exactly the sort of footy that they faced here.

They weren’t exactly shell-shocked in the first half, but they certainly were made to dig their way out. 

Even from midway through the first half, with the game evidently going against them, there was a conscious attempt to problem solve and conquer the style in front of them. 

Souths didn’t do it by altering their own: they steered into the skid, forcing the ball wide and shifting the point of attack.

The Bunnies want a game that plays to points and empowers their set moves and long, sweeping shifts, but the Dolphins were intent on keeping the ball in play and forcing the grind.

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As the game edged towards their end, Souths decided to put their moves on without set points, They used Tom Burgess and – especially – Jai Arrow to win points on the floor, enabling Damien Cook to step out, Murray to dig in and all that good stuff to flow. 

It wasn’t perfect initially, but it changed the direction of the contest in their favour. Even then, they went to the break trailing.

After the break, it kicked into overdrive. Two tries early in the half came off the back of pressure and the second of them, while incredibly fortunate in the execution and requiring two deflections to make it to Walker, was all about how hard they tried to spread and force the action.

Demetriou will be quietly delighted about the way that his side answered the questions asked of them. Against Melbourne, admittedly a better playing group than the Dolphins, they had no answer. It’s a skill the Bunnies will need later in the year.

The dogged Dolphins

We might only be seven games into the life of the Dolphins, but there’s no doubting that they have a style. Bennett’s basics might be the best way to describe it: they do lots of high percentage, high effort plays and isolate one or two key aspects of their opponents that they like to poke at.

Not many would have argued that they had the weakest roster in the comp, and that, allied to the lack of cohesion that comes with being new, makes this way of playing their best option. It’s conservative to the point of being a little bit dull, but by god, it works.

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Souths have no excuse for not knowing what the Dolphins were going to do. They completed high, ruthlessly targeted the obvious weakness around Taane Milne and tried to convert their few attacking opportunities.


They nicked one early after a Milne error, then took a penalty goal, then scored after Milne had shot the line badly and let them in. 

The first time Souths got any field position, they scored on their first set with relative ease. But that was the point: they barely got any in the first half.

For 40 minutes, it was perfect pressure footy from the Dolphins.

The question, however, is if they could change the script when Souths inevitably made their mark. The Bunnies are too good a side to be out of the game for 80 minutes and were always going to have their moments.

In their seven games, there have been limited occasions where Redcliffe have had to chase the game, and they weren’t able to tonight. The grind doesn’t work if you’re not winning with 20 to go and have to change the script.

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It’s a limitation of the system that nearly cost them last week: as they shut up shop against the Cowboys, it invited an enormous amount of pressure that they were able to withstand.

That didn’t work tonight, and probably won’t work against the very best teams with the best attacks. But don’t forget that first half: most attacks aren’t as good as South Sydney, and Uncle Wayne’s bashathon will work plenty of times this year if they can keep it up.

Cody Walker is a work of art

There were more old masters than the Rijksmuseum on display tonight. Sure, you got Wayne in the coaches’ box and some inspirational stuff in the first half from Jesse Bromwich and Mark Nicholls in the Dolphins’ middle, but they were merely a precursor to the main event. The second half was the Cody Walker show.

Walker was well marshalled before the break as Souths were stuck in the grind, but once they got the slightest iota of space, the five eighth went to town.

It was almost as if he’d been personally offended by the closed off defending of the Dolphins, and perhaps even by the early season hype around Lachlan Ilias and Koloamatangi on the right edge. Didn’t they know about Souths’ left?

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Walker got a huge slice of luck for his own try, but for the second time this year following his score against Manly, it was a case of keep chasing and you make your own.

For his three try assists, it was classic Cody: dig deep, induce contact, let the ball go. The pass to Alex Johnston could be stuck up on the wall in Amsterdam along with the Rembrandts and Vermeers and wouldn’t look out of place for a second.

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