Who is this team and what have they done with the Dolphins?

With Wayne Bennett consigned to his sick bed back in Redcliffe, the Phins produced their most freewheeling attacking display since joining the NRL to surge past Parramatta, running rings around the Eels in the Darwin heat to consign Brad Arthur’s men to a 44-16 defeat.

The scoreline did not flatter the Phins, and indeed, would have been much more had Jamayne Isaako not gone 3/7 with the boot before having kicking privileges removed.

Since entering the competition, Redcliffe’s football has been based on high completions, finishing in corners and being difficult to beat.

Yet after a first half hour of toil against Parramatta – in which they defended for their lives to merely stay in the game – stand-in coach Kristian Woolf, who will take over from Bennett next year, changed tack entirely.

Led by a fearless Isaiya Katoa in the 7 and a rampant Jeremy Marshall-King at 9, the Phins put on nine straight tries to leave the Eels chasing shadows.

This wasn’t supposed to happen, and it certainly wasn’t supposed to happen like this.

The thick end of $3m in salary cap remained in Redcliffe with Herbie Farnworth, Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, Tom Flegler and Felise Kaufusi all out, as well as long-term absentee Tom Gilbert.

Yet this side, with Q Cup stalwart Trai Fuller to the fore, knew they had nothing to lose and played like it.

Parra were shellshocked. They look bereft without Mitchell Moses and lost Daejarn Asi to a concussion in the second half, by which point the game was gone.

The pressure is now well and truly on for Brad Arthur, whose contract is under discussion going into 2025.

This was one that the Eels will have circled as a must-win given their middling start to the year and the tough trot of fixtures coming up in the next six weeks, which see them face the Broncos, Sharks, Storm and Sea Eagles.

This was really worrying stuff for Arthur: his side have generally needed over 52% of possession to win a game in the last few years, but have now lost the ability to convert that dominance into points.

When Will Penisini went over for Parra’s second try in the 27th minute, his side had enjoyed a ridiculous 72% of the territory and 59% of the ball.

They scored earlier, through a simple Shaun Lane effort set up by Joey Lussick, who identified Kodi Nikorima in the line and sent his biggest player right on top of him.

Though the Eels had all the ball and played exclusively at one end of the field, they could only be disappointed by their attack.

Not for the first time, it had been brawn rather than craft or skill that had made the impact, and invariably, that doesn’t work long term.

Redcliffe are resolute and put their bodies in the way, but nowhere near enough questions had been asked.

Indeed it was the underpowered Dolphins who had asked the most questions. Trai Fuller, deputising at the back, was a livewire and, when they finally got some ball, they weren’t afraid to use it.

This isn’t really Dolphins football, but given the run of the game, they knew they’d have to strike when they could.

They’re the side who value completions the highest – followed by Parra – but were happy to have a crack when it was on, which largely came down to the work of Katoa.

The Tonga international moved to Redcliffe to get out of the shadow of Nathan Cleary, but watching his pass for Tesi Niu’s try in the second half, it could have been the Prince of Penrith in action.

The third was even less Phin-like: they attacked from deep, with Marshall-King picking out Luca Moretti sleeping in the line, then finding Fuller to streak away.

There were two for Max Plath, one the product of a superb offload from Oryn Keeley, and another for Jake Averillo, whose effort to reach a bouncing ball exemplified the difference in enthusiasm between the sides.

As if to underline it, Bostock got a second with ten to play, chasing a Fuller kick and reaching it inches before the dead ball, then Niu got another, then Bostock added a third.

In the final half hour, that possession split from the first 30 was reversed: it was 70/30 to the Dolphins, who had scored eight times in their time on top.

Parra were doubled over catching their breath, Gutherson was clutching his leg and Arthur was sweating profusely in the stands. That might not all have been the Darwin heat.





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