Dolphins Hold Off Knights in NRL Victory
Tesi Niu Shines with Hat-trick
The Dolphins’ dream start to their inaugural season in the NRL has continued, with Wayne Bennett’s side holding out a gutsy Knights outfit 36-20 in Newcastle on Friday night. Tesi Niu, who had generated interest from the Knights in the off-season, scored a hat-trick in the victory while his opposite number Dominic Young had a nightmare under the high ball in defeat.
Dolphins Become Third Expansion Team in History to Win First Three Games
With the victory, the Dolphins became the third expansion team in history to win their first three games and now will prepare to make the ultimate statement next week against Brisbane.
Kaufusi Placed on Report Twice and Sin Binned
Bennett could be without experienced second rower Felise Kaufusi for that game after he was placed on report twice and sin binned in Friday’s game for a late shot on Jackson Hastings. Hastings was forced from the field for a head injury assessment after that tackle, while the already injury-hit Knights lost Daniel Saifiti to what appeared to be a shoulder injury.
Dolphins Start Strong
The Dolphins were first to get on the board after Sean O’Sullivan forced a repeat set, putting in a kick which was fumbled by Newcastle forward Leo Thompson. It did not take long for the visitors to strike as a swift move down the left edge saw Niu go over untouched, with O’Sullivan doing well in the lead-up to take the ball right up to the line and create space on the outside.
Newcastle Strikes Back
Newcastle though was relatively quick to hit back as Dolphins fullback Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow was found out in the 18th minute. Knights halfback Jackson Hastings put in a well-weighted kick and five-eighth Tyson Gamble, who replaced Kalyn Ponga (concussion) in Friday’s team, charged onto it while Tabuai-Fidow failed to make a play at the ball.
Knights Nearly Back-to-Back
The Knights almost went back-to-back as an early spread down the right edge saw Lachie Miller send Young sprinting down the sideline. Young then found Miller back in support but a desperate O’Sullivan pulled the Knights fullback down, defusing the situation — at least temporarily. Newcastle still had a chance to capitalise on the break as it went down the left side but the Dolphins scrambled to take down Lachlan Fitzgibbon on the final tackle.
Controversy as Young Drops Kick
Having set up their first try of the game, Hastings went to the boot again soon after, targeting Young who was matched up against Niu. The Dolphins winger couldn’t defuse the bomb though and Dane Gagai was on the spot to pounce and score — at least that is what it seemed. But the referee would send the decision up to the Bunker, with it later ruled that Young had also knocked the ball on, seeing the try taken off the board. Young then dropped a Dolphins kick on the ensuing set, gifting the visitors a full set in prime field position — and the injection of Kodi Nikorima off the bench paid dividends.
Kodi Nikorima’s Strong Performance
The 28-year-old jumped out of dummy-half in the 28th minute to humiliate the Knights defence, powering his way over to give the Dolphins a 12-6 lead.
Dolphins Regain Control
It took a while but the Dolphins eventually regained ascendancy, running in the next two tries with halfback O’Sullivan having a hand in both. First, he took the line on and created space and put Connelly Lemuelu streaming through a gaping hole. The former Cowboy could have taken Newcastle’s last line of defence on by himself but instead opted to pass back outside to speedster Tabuai-Fidow.
Tesi Niu enjoyed his first NRL hat-trick but it was a much less enjoyable night for his opposite number. While Dominic Young got through plenty of work, running for 139 metres in defeat, the Newcastle winger struggled under the high ball. Young finished the game with five errors and was targeted by Dolphins halfback Sean O’Sullivan, who quickly realised the 21-year-old was low in confidence.