Dolphins thump Roosters, cap fairtyale NRL debut
The Dolphins put the NRL on notice with a fairytale start to their existence in a brutal and dazzling 28-18 comeback win over the error-ridden Sydney Roosters.
The 32,177 crowd at Suncorp Stadium was expectant before kick-off about what might happen, but few would have predicted the upset that unfolded as the Wayne Bennett-coached outfit stood tall.
The Dolphins honoured the spirit of Arthur Beetson in their debut match, and they did him proud.
Dolphins back-rower Felise Kaufusi unveiled a superb defensive display, turning the game and winning the Artie Legacy Medal as man of the match.
With his side behind 12-6 just before the break, Kaufusi crunched former Storm teammate Brandon Smith in a bone-jarring tackle, then repeated the dose on Egan Butcher to win possession. Prop Mark Nicholls scored, and the Dolphins believed. They never looked back.
"That was the turning point of the game. I don't think they recovered from that," Bennett said.
A second-half double to Dolphins winger Jamayne Isaako after rampaging forward Connelly Lemuelu scored one of his own gave the Dolphins an incredible 28-12 lead after 56 minutes on the back of ferocious defence.
It was a moment to savour for Bennett, who also led the Brisbane Broncos to victory 35 years earlier in their debut match, over Manly.
"Of course it compares," Bennett said.
"The Broncos were game one. The Dolphins are game one. We played Manly that day and no-one gave us a chance. No one gave us a chance much here today.
"It's terribly significant. One of the most difficult things is to get that first win. It settles everything down.
"A loss here today would have put us under a hell of a lot more pressure. A loss years ago would have done the same to the Broncos.
"It was important, and the way we played was important."
The Dolphins showed they would be no pushovers for any side in the NRL this year.
They went try-for-try with their more fancied opponents to go to half-time at 12-all before putting the foot down.
For decades, Bennett-coached teams have been known for showing their skill, defending like demons, and not giving up.
The essence of those qualities was on show, led by Kaufusi. Fullback Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow was electric with the ball and scored the new club's first NRL try.
Hooker Jeremy Marshall-King set up both first half tries and played the best game of his career. Halves Isaiya Katoa and Sean O'Sullivan directed traffic and were integral to the win.
The Roosters only had themselves to blame for their demise after a suite of uncharacteristic errors, though fortune was also against them.
Smith had a head clash with teammate Egan Butcher early and was sent for an HIA, while Victor Radley suffered an accidental finger in an eye from Butcher and spent time off the park in the first half.
Radley left the field with concussion in the second half, along with prop Matt Lodge, while Butcher was sin-binned as the Dolphins ran riot.
The Roosters scored first through Joseph Suaalii before Marshall-King split them up the middle from 60m out and Tabuai-Fidow loomed up on the inside to cross, in a moment that visibly lifted the new side.