NRL debate erupts over controversial sin-bins in Dolphins-Cowboys clash

Both the Cowboys and Dolphins were left a man down after two controversial NRL sin-bins on Good Friday.

Coesn Hess' hit on Isaiya Katoa is pictured left, and Kodi Nikorima's lifting tackle highlighted on the right - both in the NRL.
NRL experts were divided over incidents involving the Cowboys' Coen Hess and Dolphins' Kodi Nikorima, which resulted in sin-bins for both. Pictures: Fox League

The NRL's match review committee will look at two incidents from Friday's clash between the Dolphins and North Queensland Cowboys after Coen Hess and Kodi Nikorima were sin-binned under somewhat contentious circumstances. The Dolphins claimed a 32-22 victory over their Queensland rivals, however much of the talk after the match centred on whether 10 minutes in the sin bin was an overreaction to each player's indiscretion.

Hess was given his marching orders after hitting Dolphins halfback Isaiya Katoa late in the 26th minute, giving away a penalty. While commentators considered shot a clear penalty, they were somewhat surprised when referee Adam Gee placed Hess on report and sent him from the ground.

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A short time later, the Dolphins found themselves a man down as well after Nikorima was sent to the sin-bin for a lifting tackle on Riley Price. Like Hess, Nikorima was also placed on report, leaving him at the mercy of the match review committee.

Commentators agreed that Nikorima's tackle, while again clearly worthy of a penalty, was far from the most brutal lifting tackle the game had seen. Fortunately, Price was let down relatively gently, albeit still on his head.

Both incidents prompted speculation that the sin-bin may have been an overreach, but Fox League's Shane Flanagan said there was enough precedent from this season already that players should know not to how the NRL was policing such incidents now. He said Hess' sin-bin was likely a straightforward call for the referee.

“We all know that’s the rules,” Flanagan said. “As we all know when a ball player passes or anyone lets the ball go, he’s relaxed.

“He’s relaxed and his support player has already received the ball. I agree with it, 10 minutes in the bin.”

However the panel wasn't in agreement, with Sydney Roosters fullback Luke Keary labelling the hit 'borderline'. He said there wasn't any malice in Hess' hit, saying he believed he was hard done by to have to sit for 10 minutes.

“As a half obviously we are in a vulnerable position. In slow motion it looks worse than what it was, but I don’t think that is a sin bin," he said. "As a half you don’t want to get hit like that, but you still need that in the game where halves know that someone is coming to pressure them.

“He didn’t have any malice in that. He nearly had his hands up at the end. I don’t think that’s a sin bin.”

Dolphins await outcome on Kodi Nikorima lifting tackle

Flanagan had a similar opinion on Nikorima's lifting tackle, again pointing out that the rules around lifting an opponent beyond the horizontal had been well established for years. Fellow panellist Greg Alexander said that while it was far from the worst example of such a tackle, the NRL has consistently made it clear how such actions will be officiated.

“It was just a bit awkward,” Alexander said. "The fact he got his hands through the legs, that was the criteria that the Bunker was looking for.

“There wasn’t a great deal in it. He ducked his head down. He put his hand down to brace himself.

“It’s a tough one. It is not a terrible tackle, but that’s where we are now. Just what we saw from Coen Hess and Nikorima, that’s where the game is at the moment.”

Without playmakers Sean O'Sullivan and Anthony Milford, former Cowboys speedster Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow returned to Townsville and scored the match-sealing try after his side thwarted a spirited second-half comeback in front of a sold-out Queensland Country Bank Stadium crowd. Tabuai-Fidow's 78th minute try capped a gallant effort by Bennett's side, who defended hard after second half errors almost allowed the Cowboys to chase down a 26-12 halftime lead through tries to Coen Hess and Valentine Holmes.

But the 'Phins flyer held his nerve to ice the game just shy of the siren off a right side play to finish with two tries, one try assist, two line assists and 120 metres from his 13 runs.

"It was just nice to hear the crowd cheering 'Hammer' when he did things - that's just respect and I think that's really important in the game," Bennett said of his fullback's return to Townsville. "He's got a lot of that from everybody, the way he plays the game."

Dolphins players celebrate after scoring a try.
The Dolphins held off a second-half charge from North Queensland to pick up their fourth win of their debut NRL season. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

Tabuai-Fidow and winger Jamayne Isaako now have 16 of the 25 tries scored by the Dolphins this year through six rounds, with the flying winger bagging a hat-trick in the first half.

The Dolphins' efforts were built off a bullocking forward pack that made easy yardage in an opening half in which the Dolphins never looked phased by a raucous Good Friday crowd.

They piled on five tries to two in 40 minutes of action that included two sin-bins, 36 points and a couple of former Cowboys getting one back on their old club.

With AAP

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