Hits and Misses: Dolphins shock the world

This week we take a look at the Dolphins' incredible start to their debut NRL season, consider whether rugby league is easily the toughest sport on earth, and scratch our heads at a ridiculous use of the sin bin.

Read on as we take a look back at some of the biggest hits and misses of the weekend.


Dolphins shock the world with decisive victory

THE biggest hit of the opening round was the one the Dolphins placed on the beak of the red-hot favourite Roosters. No one, bar Wayne Bennett and his players, expected the Dolphins to upset the Roosters on debut, and even they would not have dreamt of such an emphatic victory. The Dolphins ran out onto Suncorp Stadium, in front of over 32,000 fans, simply hungrier than their much-fancied rivals.

They jogged off at halftime with the scores locked at 12, having been the better of the two teams. Out of dummy-half Jeremy Marshall-King was having his best game ever, picking and choosing the right time to contribute and shoring up the ruck with his tireless tackling.

Leading the way in defence was second-row veteran Felise Kaufusi. In the second half he stepped up his rampage, cutting down Roosters players with ball-jarring hits that lifted his entire team and had the crowd roaring.

Just six minutes after the break, the Dolphins fans were on their feet as Connelly Lemuelu crashed over to give them their first ever NRL lead. Kaufusi had a hand in the next try, passing to Brenko Lee who flicked it onto Jamayne Isaako who snapped Roosters ankles with a massive step inside to double that lead. Even then, there was a feeling that the Roosters would somehow storm home to snatch the competition points.

Another Isaako try put the Dolphins beyond reach and their spirited defence meant that the Roosters weren't travelling well enough to catch them. It was a monumental upset and the perfect start to the Dolphins' entry into the NRL.

Easily the toughest game on earth

I'll happily argue with anyone that, outside of combat sports, rugby league is the toughest sporting endeavour undertaken by humans. It is easy to take for granted just what these finely tuned athletes are putting themselves through for our entertainment. Charging into each other, any thought of self-preservation cast aside, every muscle, bone and sinew constantly strained and tested.

On Thursday night, as the Storm fought an intense battle against the Eels, Cameron Munster came out of a tackle on Clint Gutherson grasping at his right hand, obviously distressed. It didn't stop him from helping in the very next tackle, but he soon ran from the field with a trainer in attendance.

The report from the Storm sheds before halftime was that the star five-eighth had a compound dislocation of his ring finger, but there was still a 50% chance that he would return. I'm not sure what sort of pain relief, bone manipulation and bandaging went on in the bowels of CommBank Stadium, but Munster was back on the field for the start of the second half.

He went on to set up a crucial try with some sweet deception, was his ever-dangerous self throughout the next 40 minutes and into extra time, and it is doubtful the Storm would have overcome a determined Eels side without him.

Elsewhere on the night, players were leaving the field with bung shoulders, head gashes and concussions. Just another game of top-level rugby league. There has to be an easier way to make a living.

Young Rabbitohs half stands tall

Eight minutes into the Sharks tussle with the Rabbitohs, Cronulla winger Ronaldo Mulitalo was heading to the left corner for the first try of the night. Mulitalo, with a broad smile breaking across his face, eased up for his celebratory dive over the line. Out of nowhere, Rabbitohs half Lachlan Ilias flew at the Sharks winger, knocking the ball from his grasp. It was the ultimate example of giving everything, even when the outcome seems inevitable.

Minutes later with the Rabbitohs on the attack, Ilias stepped through the defence, stumbled to his knees, regained his feet and scrambled over for a four-pointer. It was just the early stages of a man-of-the-match performance from the young Souths halfback, who is set for a big year.


Are short drop-outs worth the effort?

Short goal-line drop-outs are all the rage, but there are some basics that have to be observed. For one, you can't afford to have too many of your players go up for the ball, leaving no one to defend if the pursuit proves fruitless.

The Cowboys tried a short drop-out with 22 minutes remaining against the Raiders, while leading 18-12. The attempt was understandable, as they had barely touched the ball after the break and the Raiders were rampaging home. The kick was perfectly executed by Scott Drinkwater, but both Kyle Feldt and Peter Hiku went up for the ball with Chad Townsend also in the mix. Feldt dropped the ball, Hiku fell over and Jack Wighton picked the ball up for the Raiders, with absolutely no one in front of him.

The converted try levelled the scores at 18 and set in motion a frantic finish to the game, with the Cowboys edging ahead through a Townsend field goal.

At Leichhardt Oval, the Titans showed they need to work on their short drop-out game, kicking two of them clear over the sideline for penalties right in front. They are great when they work, but can prove costly when they don't.

Costly error sees Premiers upset by Broncos

It was the ultimate miss, as Stephen Crichton made an awful defensive mistake to let in Brisbane's first try on Friday night. Standing on his own line, with the Broncos down to their last tackle, he raced through looking for an intercept that was never there.

Wily Broncos halfback Adam Reynolds had feigned to kick before throwing the perfect pass which found Herbie Farnworth on an angled run past the outstretched arms of Crichton. The Panthers were numbered off perfectly and Crichton needed only to claim his man. The Broncos went on to win the game by one point, with the Panthers looking out of sorts as they began their title defence with a loss.

Sin bin for faint touch riles fans

It didn't take long for the head scratching to start thanks to some ridiculous bunkers calls. With six minutes remaining in the first half against the Bulldogs, the Sea Eagles made a break down the left wing through Reuben Garrick. As the defence converged, Garrick put in an awkward centring grubber, which caused the closely pursuing Tom Trbojevic to pull up as he tried not to overrun the bobbling ball. Hot on his tail was Bulldogs half Kyle Flanagan, who put his hands up to brace for a collision with Trbojevic. The Manly fullback fell to the ground as the ball bounced away.

The bunker decided that Flanagan had committed a professional foul and sent him to the sin bin for ten minutes. In slow motion it was clear that Flanagan had not even straightened his bent elbows, which would have been a clear sign of a shove in the back.

Manly scored two tries while the Bulldogs were down a man, taking the score to 18-6. The Sea Eagles outclassed the Bulldogs in the second half, and realistically were never going to lose. But, any chance the Bulldogs had of competing was blown away in those ten minutes, as they scrambled to defend in the steamy conditions.