QUICK WRAP: Dolphins vs Titans
23 April 2023 - Redcliffe play Gold Coast in round 8 of the NRLM season in the early Sunday timeslot at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Was the game worth watching?
It was close.
People who should NOT watch this game:
People with a heart condition
Titans fans, and friends and family of the players
People who should watch this game:
People who like laughing
People who like to watch trivia happen in real time
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Did the Dolphins or the Titans look like the better team?
This was basically two games of peak 2021 Vlandoball stapled together and whichever team had the ball looked the best because they got to keep the ball. The Titans won the first half 26-6. The Dolphins won the second half 22-0. If there was no half time, the Titans might have won by 70. If the Dolphins had any ball in the first half, the Titans would never have gotten that far in front.
This was a game decided in the middle of the field. Normally, the forwards lay a platform for the backs to score the points but that’s not quite how this game unfolded. In this game, the forwards laid the platform and the Redcliffe middles were responsible for the points. In the first half, the Titans kept breaking the line through the middle of the field, targetting tired Dolphins (e.g. Kaufusi is so busy axing Foran that Brimson flies through the resulting gap) who have been tackling for what feels like forever but is more likely to be about 30 minutes. Those breaks lead to tries which lead to more Gold Coast ball. In the second half, Nicholls and Wallace get tries under the posts that get the game within reach and after that, the Titans go to jelly (e.g. Foran and Brimson forcing passes on the break that just aren’t on) and Redcliffe, almost inevitably, comes over the top.
Were they really the better team?
I left the title as “they” rather than filling in one team or the other as I usually do because I honestly expected this to be a lot closer. It was a game with lots of stuff happening.
Not only did the Dolphins finish the game with a surplus of possession, they absolutely crushed the Titans in the yardage battle. 50 metres per set is pretty good and would theoretically be enough to win most games but not against this Dolphins side/with this Titans defence (delete as appropriate). While the Titans had +3 line breaks, and the extra 2.2 SCWP as a result, the Dolphins comprehensively outproduced the Titans in every other area.
Did you notice?
I thought Isaiya Katoa would be the real deal after watching half of the NSW Cup final last year. The kid is good. He’s still a kid but he’s good.
Watch him shape up to take the standard bomb here.
I’m no kicking mechanics expert but it looks like he has almost no backswing on his kicking leg and all the power comes on the follow-through. Then watch him shape up for what looks like the same attacking kick to the left wing he’s been going to all afternoon and then opt for the grubber for Tabuai-Fidow.
There’s absolutely noting in his body language to telegraph what’s coming and the deception sends the Titans defence scrambling and forces a drop-out. Like a first class pitcher, you have no idea whether you’re getting the splitter or the fastball until its about six inches in front of your face.
Katoa also does his best Cameron Munster impression - footwork, dummies, fake calls to run a line, changes of speed, it had everything - in the lead up to the Jennings try.
The Titans just had to make a tackle and they were frozen in place by a teenager. Good for him, pathetic for them.
Katoa hasn’t been the most productive player in the world and he’s clearly not the one steering the ship but he’s got a good set of tools at his disposal.
I mentioned trivia and here it is:
A 26 point comeback hasn’t happened in 14 years. A 26 point comeback to win hasn’t happened in a quarter of a century. This section of Wikipedia lists all the 20 point or more comebacks in NRL history, of which there have been 23. The Titans have been on the wrong end of four of them, the most in the league1, and all in the last two years.
I’m going to say more about Holbrook in The Weekly but can you think of a better example to compare and contrast coaching performances than Bennett’s Dolphins, coughing up a 26 point lead and then systematically overhauling it, and Holbrook’s Titans, getting a 26 point lead and being unable to maintain it, even if their coach’s career depended on it.
Kruise Leeming came on with two minutes and six seconds left in the first half. He came off with eight minutes and twenty seconds left in the match so Jayden Campbell could come on. The Titans only used seven interchanges. Mikaele got all of 12 minutes. Holbrook adopted a more conventional approach to the minutes against the Broncos and, yes, the Titans still ran out of steam but they were playing one of the best teams in the comp. Against the Dolphins, you shouldn’t need to get cute because if you do they’re going to smack you in the face with a flipper. If you choose to get cute because the boys don’t have the gas to take it to the NRL’s most average team, then that’s the root cause that needs fixing.
I watched this on delay and kept myself off social media to avoid find out what happened. I had the result somewhat blown when I saw the Dolphins had sent an email with the subject “Comeback Complete” while I still had 20 minutes to go. Not only was it completely unsurprising that the Titans would blow a historically massive lead, if you look for it in the last ten minutes, you can see how terrified they are of it happening to them again. They aren’t incompetent so much as they are petrified of it turning into a mess which, of course, means they make a mess of it. The defensive line turns to more of a serpentine and Aitken finds a hole.
Robert - not Michael, as I reflexively noted down - Jennings still has to be dropped. You can’t make those kinds of mistakes while your team is chasing points. It’s astonishing that they even went left again after those two cock-ups. Now, it’s Valynce Te Whare time. Make room for him, Wayne.
Nikorima had a couple of shockers to start the game but once they were out of his system, I don’t think you’d be moving on from him for Milford even if he’s fit. Hope you like Rockhampton, Anthony.
I don’t often feel for players but I do feel for guys like Tino, who slog their guts out and it just doesn’t count for anything.
I don’t care about the state of the Suncorp surface. I just don’t. Do not give me close-ups of clumps of grass while there is an active football game occuring. “How will the pitch hold up at Magic Round???” is the most tired talking point, given the event is in its fourth year, and there was approximately a metre of rain in the lead-up to last year’s event.
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Newcastle, Cronulla and Penrith have three each.