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ANALYSIS: Api out of Origin after breaking jaw in run-in with Tino's bumper bars - and Maroons forward might yet cop ban

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8th June, 2023
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The Titans cruised to a 28-12 victory over the Tigers, but nobody who watched this game will be thinking too hard about the score.

The biggest event of the game, with potentially drastic implications for Origin, happened in the 15th minute, with Api Koroisau taken to hospital following a collision with Tino Fa’asuamaleaui that left him with a broken jaw.

Damien Cook will now likely replace him in the Blues squad for the clash at Suncorp Stadium, with Reece Robson an alternative option.

The hooker sustained the injury while attempting to tackle the Queensland forward, catching the forward’s ball-carrying arm direct to the face.

Fa’asuamaleaui was put on report for the incident, which is his second in the last month for Dangerous Contact while carrying the football, leaving his participation in Game 2 also in doubt.

He collided heavily with Bulldogs hooker Reed Mahoney ahead of Game 1 of Origin, but was merely fined for the incident and allowed to play for the Maroons.

Fa’asuamaleaui will sweat on the charges from the Match Review Panel, and might well review his technique after another incident that was probably avoidable.

“I’ve been running like that since I came into the NRL,” he explained after the match.

“There’s been a couple of times where the player has put their head into the wrong position and come off second best, but I’m just going out there to run as hard as I can to get quick play the balls. 

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“It’s a contact sport at the end of the day. I’m hoping he’s alright and I hope I’m alright too. The media make me more worried than anything, building it up.”

On what was a horror night for the Tigers, they also lost Luke Brooks to a hamstring injury, leaving them without their best two players, and their two team leaders, for the foreseeable future.

“He plays the game tough and fair,” said Tim Sheens. “I’m not going to accuse the kid (Fa’asuamaleaui), though they put it on report so they went back and looked at it. Unfortunately, without sin binning, we couldn’t activate our next man so we played a man short.

“The jaw’s broken and badly broken. His bottom teeth are just loose so it’s going to be major surgery. 

“Losing Brooksy with a hamstring means a major reshuffle next week. The medical staff are looking at it at the moment, but he’s had it before you’re looking at 3-4 weeks if you’re lucky and it’s not a bad rupture.”

They were never a chance tonight. Without Koroisau, Sheens’ men struggled to create anything meaningful beyond individual moments – notably one outstanding try from Jahream Bula.

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The Titans were competent, went about their work with relative ease and banked points at crucial moments. AJ Brimson, on return from injury, was excellent and Fa’asuamaleaui and Moeaki Fotuaika laid the platform. In Game 100, Philip Sami scored and topped the count with a mammoth 270m.

It wasn’t always spectacular stuff, but after a series of dispiriting defeats, Justin Holbrook will take that every day of the week.

“It’s exactly what we needed,” he said. “I’m really happy with the win tonight. It was great, and it’s what we had to do. We know what we’ve done a few times this year. It’s great to play for the full 80 and get a good win.”

The Titans have just about enough

The prognosis ahead of this game was not awe-inspiring. Last year’s meeting on the Gold Coast was the worst game of the year. The Titans can’t defend and the Tigers can’t attack. 

Within the first ten minutes, we got a strong indicator that this wasn’t likely to be a stellar showing. 

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The Tigers dropped the ball in yardage, only for the Titans to drop it back on the second tackle. No worries: the Tigers dropped it straight back. The Titans then forced two repeat sets – although only by taking five drives within good ball – before eventually a moment of quality saw AJ Brimson get over.

Ten minutes later, another calamity of errors, but on the other side. The Tigers missed touch with a kick, but stole the ball moments later and, after two brazen hold downs resulted in set restarts, scored through the simplest crossover of the year.

Had the defence been by anyone other than the Titans, it would have been embarrassing, but for the Gold Coast, it’s just Thursday.

It was that kind of game for a large part of the evening. Whenever Wests did something silly, which was frequently, they could usually rely on the Titans to let them off the hook. 

In the end, the great quality of the Titans in good ball told out. They created two tries in the first half – one good, one horrendous defending from the Tigers – that gave enough of a lead to defend.

The Tigers have struggled to bank points all year and all of their nous seemed to depart with Koroisau.

It’s a shame, really, because the constituent parts weren’t that bad. Both backrowers were threatening with the ball, as if Fonua Pole, and the young gun combo of Jahream Bula and Junior Tupou have so much upside given where they are in their careers. 

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Though Brooks continued his decent form of late, but was largely doing it on his own in good field position. It’s not enough, even against a defence as dubious as the Titans.

Compare to the likes of AJ Brimson and Jayden Campbell – and Sam Verrills, who laid on the clincher – and it is night and day.

Neither of these sides are good, but as the scoreline shows, one is still a lot better than the other.

Tino’s bumper bar problem

It would be tough to call it a trend, but this isn’t the first time that Tino’s ball-carrying technique has got him into trouble.

Indeed, it’s not even the first time in the last month, given that he laid out Bulldogs hooker Reed Mahoney in similar fashion in Round 12.

That incident was much more cut and dried than this, and Tino was fined for his part in it, but it is now worrying for the Titans – and Queensland – that the judiciary might see them as successive events and upgrade this latest sanction into a ban.

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Whether it’s a foul or not is up for debate. On both occasions, Fa’asuamaleaui had a huge height advantage over the tackler and is perfectly entitled to lean into contact to bump them away, as well as using his arms to protect himself.

But he’s not allowed to turn his arm horizontally, and to use it for any reason other than defence. 

It will worry Fa’asuamaleaui that the judiciary has taken a dim view of similar incidents in the recent past, with Queensland’s Julia Robinson given two games for a raised arm that caught Isabelle Kelly in the throat in Women’s Origin last week.

On that occasion, there was no penalty either, but the injured player was taken to hospital. Once again, the Maroons will wait on the charges dropping, and then be forced to fight them if necessary.

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