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Hammer deserves Dally M votes this time around as Dolphins demolish Dragons in dramatic turnaround for both teams

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Expert
17th March, 2024
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After their Round 1 results, Dolphins fans were dreading the possibility of collecting the wooden spoon while the St George Illawarra faithful were dreaming of the finals.

But a more realistic equation presented itself in game two for both clubs – the Dolphins shouldn’t end up at the bottom of the ladder and the Dragons still have a long way to go before they can think about breaking their playoff drought.

While the match itself was, for the most part, not the prettiest example of rugby league for the sell-out crowd at the boutique Kayo Stadium, the 38-0 scoreline was a thing of beauty for the Dolphins after their 43-18 shellacking the previous week against the Cowboys. 

The most unusual moment of the night came when Jeremy Marshall-King copped one of the most unfortunate Falcon HIAs of all time when Ben Hunt thundered a clearing kick straight into the side of his head.

Although he looked a little dusty straight after impact, he passed the off-field assessment after being told he needed to check to make sure the comical moment didn’t result in serious consequences.

Dolphins fullback Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow was the star of the show as he registered his first career hat-trick. 

The Maroons star somehow polled a Dally M vote last week despite a below-par performance in the 43-18 loss to the Cowboys but there was no denying he was the best player on the field this time around. He probably won’t get any votes.

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Dolphins get back in the swim, Dragons drown

It took just six minutes for the Dolphins to make a splash on the scoreboard after coach Wayne Bennett swung the axe, read the riot act and donned his cranky pants following the team’s pathetic first-up performance.

Former Dragons winger Jack Bostock defused a bomb and then after making a mini break, saw the welcome sight of Hamiso Tabua-Fidow looming up in support and the fastest player on the field sprinted away to the stripe.

They stretched their lead to 10 in as many minutes when Kodi Nikorima directed a bomb to the right corner and Mikaele Ravalawa did a whole lot of nothing as he watched opposing winger Jamayne Isaako climb high to retrieve the pill.

While Marshall-King was allowed to return after his unique head knock, Nikorima failed his HIA and Dragons hooker Jacob Liddle also had to come off due to concussion concerns. 

Liddle was slow to react on his goal line moments before he was replaced with veteran prop Mark Nicholls barging past him to make it 16-0 in the 49th minute.

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Two of the players who were not used in Round 1 but brought into the side after Bennett rejigged his line-up then combined to make it 22-0 on the hour mark to all but ensure the Dolphins would break their duck for 2024.

Young halfback Isaiya Katoa drifted to the left and then fired a pass to ex-Bulldogs centre Jake Averillo, who sliced through in his club debut.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 17: Isaiya Katoa of the Dolphins passes the ball during the round two NRL match between the Dolphins and St George Illawarra Dragons at Kayo Stadium, on March 17, 2024, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Isaiya Katoa passes. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Bostock and the Hammer combined again to put the result beyond any doubt with the young winger released down the left flank by Averillo and then kicking inside for his fullback to surge clear of Kyle Flanagan’s despairing attempt to foot it with him.

Marshall-King scooted clear of a feeble Jack de Belin tackle attempt in the 70th minute to put the Dolphins up 34-0 before Tabuai-Fidow stepped past four defenders to complete the 38-point rout.

Dragons prop Francis Molo will likely cop a charge from the match review committee after he was sin-binned three minutes from full-time for a high shot on Dolphins veteran Jarrod Wallace.

On top of scoring three tries, Tabuai-Fidow denied one in the dying seconds when his last-ditch tackle on opposite number Tyrell Sloan ensured they kept an opponent scoreless for the first time in their short history while also racking up their biggest victory.

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Bennett claimed he didn’t change a lot during the week and that the players were the catalyst for the bounce-back in results.

“I liked everybody’s performance tonight,” he said. “I wasn’t disappointed with their effort and thought it was a tremendous turnaround.”

When asked if Katoa and Averillo had done enought to keep their spots, Bennett replied: “I think so. They have today anyway. Next week might be another story.”

After it was pointed out they had the bye next week, he added with a rueful smirk: “Who knows? Something could go amiss against the bye.”

Flanagan fumes over lack of energy

Dragons coach Shane Flanagan didn’t sugar-coat it when he told his team what he thought of their effort.

“It was the complete opposite to what we had last week – we had energy and commitment and today we had none of that,” he said.

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“We’ve still got some work to do and I’m really, really disappointed that we’ve gone backwards.

“Today’s performance just wasn’t good enough for the Dragons jersey and we’ve addressed that and we’re going to work really hard but we’re not happy about it. You can’t have it one week and not the other week.

“We were poor and they were good.”

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