The Roar
The Roar


Bizarre Hammer blunder and penalty try raise eyebrows as Cowboys ride roughshod over dreadful Dolphins

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10th March, 2024

Tom Dearden kicked off his reign as captain with a five-star display as the Cowboys embarrassed the Dolphins 43-18 at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday with fullback Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow coming up with an early contender for blunder of the season and a late penalty try also raising eyebrows.

The Dolphins had a fairytale start to NRL life at Suncorp Stadium last year with a win for the ages over the Sydney Roosters, but 32,477 fans were silenced on this occasion by a rampant Cowboys outfit. 

Their dreadful performance was compounded by another injury. Second-rower Connelly Lemuelu is facing an extended stint on the sidelines after dislocating his kneecap, joining Maroons forward Tom Gilbert (ACL tear) in the long-term injury ward.

As bad as the Dolphins were, the Cowboys were excellent in all areas of the game.

With Dearden and Maroons forward Reuben Cotter surprisingly taking over as co-captains from Jason Taumalolo and Chad Townsend in the off-season, North Queensland entered 2024 with question marks over their chances after they missed the playoffs last year.

But with premiership-winning playmaker James Maloney coming on board in the off-season as an assistant coach, their attack looked much better as they raced to a 31-12 half-time lead before closing out the result in the second stanza.


It was exactly the fast start coach Todd Payten had called for after the Cowboys missed last year’s finals.

“We  played some nice footy to begin with and put some points on the board,” Payten said.

“I’m just happy to sit in the sheds with the boys after a long pre-season and enjoy the hard work we have put in. It’s only round one. It”s a marathon, not a sprint, so it is important that we capitalise on this.”

The Dolphins’ defence on the edges was ragged and the visitors made them pay.

Cowboys fullback Scott Drinkwater and centre Valentine Holmes were a constant threat. 

Holmes had the measure of his opposite number Herbie Farnworth, who made little impact on his NRL debut for the hosts.


Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett said it was a disappointing display but was confident side could bounce back.

“They found us out on fifth and last plays, not too many other areas,” Bennett said. “I’ve got a good group of guys that work really hard.

“We had a bad day. We’ve got 23 games to go. If we put it behind us quickly we’ll be a lot better off than if we drag it out. We’ll keep it stable and not overreact.”

North Queensland needed just two minutes to cross the stripe with Zac Laybutt beginning his impressive effort by wrongfooting opposing centre Tesi Niu near halfway.

The Dolphins hit back when ex-Broncos prop Tom Flegler barged over in his first match with the Redcliffe club but Dearden was awarded a controversial try in the 11th minute when he appeared to ground the ball on Hamison Tabuai-Fidow’s leg before possibly getting the ball on the stripe.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 10: Herbie Farnworth of the Dolphins is tackled by Murray Taulagi of the Cowboys during the round one NRL match between the Dolphins and North Queensland Cowboys at Suncorp Stadium, on March 10, 2024, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Herbie Farnworth is tackled by Murray Taulagi. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

It was 18-4 midway through the first half when Jeremiah Nanai touched down and when Kyle Feldt backed up a Laybutt line, the visitors were up by 20.


Dolphins forward Josh Kerr stemmed the bleeding with a try from close range before Valentine Holmes sent wingman Murray Taulagi over with a questionable final pass.

Chad Townsend extended the lead to 19 with a field goal just before half-time and they went 37-12 up when second-rower Heilum Luki benefited from a bizarre own goal from Tabuai-Fidow.

Feldt made a break down the left flank and kicked ahead, The Hammer could have dived onto the ball but instead kicked it and the Steeden went straight to Luki who cruised over for the easiest of tries.

Laybutt was awarded a penalty try in the 68th minute when he was pushed away by Jack Bostock at the last moment when he was chasing through a Townsend grubber near the dead-ball line.

“I see there was contact but there wasn’t enough to say a penalty try,” Fox League expert Cooper Cronk said in commentary. “I don’t think the try would have been scored.”

Tabuai-Fidow came up with a moment of redemption late in the contest when his sizzling kick return set up a consolation try to Bostock.


It was an afternoon to forget for the Dolphins who lacked penetration and energy.

with AAP