NRL Round 6: Dolphins win 32-22 over Cowboys as Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow haunts North Queensland
Wayne Bennett continues to prove the doubters wrong as the Dolphins earn a historic first win over a Queensland rival while Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow haunts his former team.
Wayne Bennett’s counter-attacking Dolphins invaded North Queensland and quelled a Cowboys rebellion to claim their first victory over the Queensland opposition.
Rugby league’s newest kids nearly scored a first-half knockout by penalizing six cowboy errors for five tries.
North Queensland refused to go under, putting the tackle on the razor’s edge with a three-try run of their own.
Cairns product Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, the young savage who granted a parole after North Queensland picked rival Scott Drinkwater for a multimillion-dollar contract extension, delivered the final blow to sink his former club in a brace .
The Dolphins were down to a second-row pairing consisting of 18-year-old Isaiah Katoa and journeyman Kodi Nikorima, without international forwards Felise Kaufusi and Jesse Bromwich, but showed the struggle that shaped the club’s promotion to the NRL has.
“It was a great night for rugby league,” said super coach Bennett.
“With all the ball the Cowboys had, this could have been a six-try or seven-try game for them, but we kept showing up on defense.
“In the end we got some possession and a good field position and decided the game.”
Winger Jamayne Isaako, sent off by both Brisbane and Gold Coast, made three crosses in the first half.
The Dolphins winger and full-back have combined top marks in 16 of the club’s first 25 tries.
Both teams spent 10 minutes with men in the barrel in a frenetic first half that saw seven goals scored.
Cowboys backrower Coen Hess was sent on the 27th for a late shot at rookie No. 7 Isaiah Katoa and had only just returned to the field when Dolphins five-eighth Kodi Nikorima was sent to his own spell and reported by Riley Price for dumping his head.
Prop Jarrod Wallace showed symptoms of a Category I concussion and did not return in the second half.
OLD WEST SHOWDOWN
This city wasn’t big enough for the two of them.
In a scene from an old western, former cowboy Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow rolled back to Townsville with a new squad of teammates and wasted no time in showing loyal north Queensland fans what they were missing.
The ‘Hammer’ Tabuai-Fidow delivered the final pass for Isaako’s first before joining the flying winger on the scoreboard with a remarkable solo effort, breaking out of four tackles in the 23rd minute to land between the sticks.
His last attempt, which made teammates and opponents gasp alike, was pure class.
It was far from the only highlight for former cowboys that night.
Tom Gilbert shared former team-mates Jamayne Taunoa-Brown and Riley Price for his own tough try between the posts, while backrower Connelly Lemuelu’s physicality was key to repelling attacks down North Queensland’s left. “I’m not disappointed or bitter that he’s playing well,” Cowboys coach Todd Payten said.
“He’s a nice boy and left a better person and a better footballer here. The Dolphins are reaping the rewards of some of our hard work and talent on the pitch.”
THE JA MAYNE MAN
Isaako gave the Dolphins a first-half hat-trick within 40 minutes of the club’s first win over Queensland opponents.
The former Bronco and Titan now has an NRL high of eight tries in five and a half games.
Isaako found himself first in open space just eight minutes into the competition for the Dolphins before doubling in the 16th minute, puncturing a precision shot from 18-year-old halfback Isaiah Katoa and planting with millimeters of space.
With a man advantage from Hess’ sin-binning, the Dolphins punished the Cowboys with easy hands for Isaako’s third for the half.
His bad shot on goal was the only flaw.
“Jamayne wasn’t wanted with the Broncos and he went to the Seagulls and they didn’t want him in the end, but I always had a lot of faith in him,” Bennett said.
“He came to the Broncos because of me and it’s just great to see a player like him play with these guys with the confidence that he has.”
DANGEROUS DRINKING WATER
The Cowboys defense attorney returned from his three-week suspension and revealed why Cowboys officials had signed the Terrigal product to a four-year, multimillion-dollar extension.
The 25-year-old was part of North Queensland’s good attack.
Two harbor bridge passes to Kyle Feldt were the only points the Cowboys could muster in the first half, while Drinkwater shooting into the gaps were the most threatening North Queensland got.
“We’re a better team when he plays,” said Payten. “He has speed from the back of form, he has good vision and he makes us a better team.”
HAMMER V DRINKING WATER: HAVE COWBOYS LET THE WRONG FULLBACK GO?
Dolphins speed machine Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow says there is no “bad blood” with the Cowboys as he prepares to take on Scott Drinkwater, the full-back’s rival whose brilliance drove him from Townsville.
Drinkwater is returning from his suspension for the Cowboys’ Good Friday clash against the Dolphins at Queensland Country Bank Stadium and a feature of the new derby will be his backfield fight against the ‘Hammer’.
The Hammer Drinkwater narrative is compelling.
Tabuai-Fidow started as a first-choice full-back in North Queensland last year and relegated Drinkwater to the Queensland Cup for a month, but when the Hammer suffered a leg injury it opened the door for “Drinky”.
The top-flight playmaker then slammed Tabuai-Fidow’s door and produced a stunning form boost that earned Drinkwater a five-year extension while Hammer languished on the bench.
Eager to cement himself as a full-back, Tabuai-Fidow asked the Cowboys for an early release to secure a deal with the Dolphins, and the move to the new expansion franchise has paid off.
The 21-year-old has six tries from five appearances, averaging 160 yards per game and now has a chance to beat Drinkwater on former home soil he knows well in Townsville.
“It was a great challenge to get out of my comfort zone and test myself at the Dolphins, but I enjoyed coming here and the club was welcoming. It was great,” Tabuai-Fidow said.
“Defender is the position I wanted to play when I get to first grade.
“The Dolphins gave me the opportunity to come down under Wayne (Bennett) and I learned a lot of things from him.
“Against ‘Drinky’ he’s back this weekend and he’s a big part of what they’re doing so it’s going to be a great match against him and my plan is to come out on top.”
Arguably the fastest man in the NRL, Tabuai-Fidow hit 21 tries in 50 games for the Cowboys and became a star at the club when he made his Queensland Origin debut two years ago.
The Cowboys were formed to keep juniors like Cairns product Tabuai-Fidow in North Queensland. In a perfect world, the Hammer would have ended his career at Townsville, but he produced the best football of his career with the Dolphins.
“It was difficult to say goodbye,” he said.
“It was hard to walk at first, but I knew I had to keep going.
“I wanted to play full-back and when Drinky nailed that spot it made it difficult for me. Coming off the bench was a bit strange to me and when the Dolphins gave me an opportunity to play full-back I had to take it.
“There’s no bad blood with anyone in the Cowboys. I still love the club, they did a lot for me and gave me my big chance in the NRL. I’m looking forward to this weekend. It will be a bit surreal to play against them.
“I came to the Dolphins with no real pressure, I just tried to play my natural way and Wayne Bennett supported me in that.
“It was a good move.”
Drinkwater admits he had mixed feelings about the Dolphins’ departure from Tabuai-Fidow.
“It’s kind of a shame Hammer had to leave,” Drinkwater said.
“Obviously I was a bit worried when I was stuck in the Queensland Cup.
“There were thoughts there that I might have to move on and find a new club, but when there are injuries in rugby league you have to take your chances.
“Hammer is a boy from north Queensland and is still a good pal of mine, but this is rugby league at this professional level.”
Originally released as NRL Round 6: Dolphins win 32-22 over Cowboys as Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow ravages North Queensland