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ANALYSIS: Dolphins break Titans hearts once more as penalty sees Bennett's boys' take out golden point thriller

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9th July, 2023
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When these two sides first met in Round 8, the Dolphins embarrassed the Titans after they put on a massive come-from-behind victory. Trailing by 26 points at the break, The Dolphins came out in the second half to blow the Dolphins away and take out the win.

Sunday’s rematch was all too similar, with the Titans squandering yet another halftime lead, and the Dolphins coming from behind for a 23-21 victory at Cbus Stadium. With the game forced into golden point, Titans’ forward Erin Clark was called offside which gifted the Dolphins an easy penalty kick from in front to take an important two points after losing their last four games.

“I think Erin got back, I don’t know if he left a bit early….I don’t think it’s any different to the one where Nudge was kicking from 40m, I’m sure they were leaving just as early or at the same time and we don’t seem to get a penalty,” said Titans interim coach Jim Lenehan.

“At the moment if it’s not bad luck then we’re not having any luck at all.”

With both trying to force their way into the Top 8, along with missing stars to Origin and injury, it was anyone’s guess how this game was going to unfold. It was a real arm wrestle for most of the 80 minutes, with both teams finishing close in most areas. Along with minimal stoppages, an exciting attack and some desperate goal-line defence, this local derby produced far more than many expected.

“After four losses, you have to find a way to win,” said Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett.

“They found one today – they just didn’t give up.”

It was a tight opening stanza with the sides matching each other set for set. The Dolphins were finally the first to score after Sean O’Sullivan found Connelly Lemuelu close to the line in the 17th minute.

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Kieran Foran couldn’t believe his luck when he levelled the score after finding himself alone near the line after gathering the ball following a kick downfield from his centre Slofiana Khan-Pereira. The home side then took the lead just a few sets later when Phillip Sami crossed in the 31st minute.

A late penalty goal extended the Titans’ lead, heading to the sheds 14-6 up at the halftime break.

But as we have seen so many times before, the Titans took their foot off the pedal and their halftime advantage crumbled.

The inclusion of Anthony Milford was huge for the visitors, and three quick tries to Jarrod Wallace, Kenny Bromwich and Jamayne Issako saw the Dolphins run out to a 20-14 lead.

“I knew I needed to get Anthony Milford on the field out there,” said Bennett. “He brings a lot and changed that second half.

As the clock ticked down, the Titans then clawed their way back to level the score with 15 minutes to go when Brian Kelly crossed in the corner.

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Isaako kicked a field goal to break the deadlock and give the Dolphins a one-point lead, and when O’Suillvan scored with three minutes left the game looked over. But the bunker eventually denied the try after replays showed the halfback had knocked on over the line. The Titans took full advantage of the no-try ruling, making their way quickly up the field for a Tanah Boyd field goal seeing the game to golden point with the scoreboard locked up at 21-21.

A Titans’ mistake close in their own half gave the Dolphins perfect field goal position, but as the attempt was waved away, the referee gave a penalty to the visitors right in front of the stick for offside. Isakko guided the ball effortlessly through the goalposts for a two-point win, and once again broke the hearts of the Titans.

Bennett against the possibility of strike action

Wayne Bennett was once again a coach who fronted the post-match press conference without his captain beside him, as RLPA and the players continue their stance on media blackouts due to a breakdown in CBA negotiations with the NRL. The Supercoach doesn’t think it should be this difficult to come to an agreement.

“Extra games….I can’t see why that would be that important to the game. We have a tremendous competition no, and with State of Origin and test matches and Indigenous games, we will everybody’s wishes.

“I know they are prepared to take the ten per cent, pay cut…..I think the game needs to take some responsibility and we all take a pay cut.

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“I don’t think it’s that hard – letting someone take a look at your books and the whole game putting their hand up and saying we will all take ten per cent.

When asked for his thoughts on the possibility of strike action, Bennett was not in a place to support it.

“Personally, I couldn’t back that. The fans don’t deserve that. I couldn’t support them going on strike.”

The Jayden Campbell dilemma

There has been a lot of talk about how the Titans have been using their superstar young gun, Jayden Campbell, and if he is being utilised correctly.

Following in the footsteps of his father Preston, the talented 23-year-old is an impressive player and a shining light for the Gold Coast. Even though he seems to be getting better each season, he finds himself coming off the bench with AJ Brimson locking down the number one jersey.

His impressive performance on Sunday including a massive 305m which is a new club record, along with nine tackle breaks and two line breaks, has many raising their eyebrows with the limited game time Campbell has received this season, and with many questioning how he is being used.

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“He’s been terrific, he’s one of those players that whenever he gets his hands on the ball good things happen,” said Folx League’s Corey Parker.

“He’s got great instinct like his dad, he’s an absolute superstar – but he hasn’t had the opportunities that he probably should have. Where does he fit into the team? Obviously, when AJ is playing, he’s the best fullback in the team. And with Kieran Foran at six and Tanah Boyd at 7, I just don’t know where he fits in.

“He loves the club, he has extended with the club, and there were talks that he might go elsewhere. He is a terrific player, an unbelievable player, they just need to find a way to get him into the game. He needs to play a lot more than five minutes.”

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Parker’s colleague Michael Ennis admitted he wanted Campbell to end up at another club.

“I selfishly wished he had signed elsewhere,” added Ennis. “I’ve said it all season, I can’t handle how limited time he is getting off the bench.

“He is too good of a player – he could start at fullback at a number of other clubs.”

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Try July

The rugby league world is once again getting behind its own in for the annual Try July fundraiser Try July

With players from both the NRL and NRLW getting $5000 donated for every try celebration in July to the support of former NRL coach Daniel Anderson who was severely injured in a body surfing accident, as well as former Cronulla Shark Nathan Stapleton who was lost feeling below the neck during a local footy match last year.

With many players getting behind the great cause so far this round, Sunday saw Lemuelu’s worm dance, Sami’s strut, Wallace eating a meat pie, and Issako taking a golf swing with the corner post continue adding some much needed money to the pot.

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