The latest Queensland derby produced an exciting encounter, with the Dolphins putting in an impressive first half to outpoint the Cowboys 32-22 in North Queensland.
While both sides were missing some of their major stars due to injuries and suspension, it did not stop fans flocking to sell out the stadium with 22,811 on hand to see the Cowboys go down to the NRL's newest club.
After a steady start to the game, the Dolphins got the ball rolling on the scoreboard in the eighth minute when Jamayne Isaako finished off a well-worked scrum play.
He was in again soon after with an impressive effort - outleaping Cowboys makeshift winger Brendan Elliot to reel in an Isaiya Katoa kick and push his side to an early 8-0 lead.
However, the Cowboys were not out of the game, with Kyle Feldt crossing for the home side's first try, in a scrum set-up that was remarkably similar to the Dolphins opener.
Throughout the game and in the first half especially, former Cowboys fullback Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow proved a threat, helping set up a try, scoring two of his own and making 11 tackle breaks by the end of the match.
The former Queensland Maroons representative was the next to score and showed what he could do with a try that showcased his tackle-busting ability.
Isaako then completed his first-half hat-trick, with the try followed in quick succession by a four-pointer to another former Cowboy in Tom Gilbert. This saw the Dolphins rush out to a 26-12 lead at halftime, with Feldt sneaking in one more for the home side just before the break to give the Cowboys fans some hope.
While the locals lifted a notch to start the second half, and kept the Dolphins scoreless until a late penalty goal to Isaako in the 75th minute, the damage had been done.
Centre Valentine Holmes tried to will his team to turn around the result with a strong second half, which despite making a crucial error where he passed the ball off the ground, saw him also score a try which brought his side within touching distance of the visitors.
However, they were not able to capitalise on their opportunities with the ball and gave up too much to the Dolphins in defence, especially in the first half and to rub salt into the wounds, the homecoming Hammer sealed the win with a late try to consign the Cowboys to their fourth loss.
Match: Cowboys v Dolphins
Round 6 -
Venue: Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville
- Dolphins winger Jamayne Isaako scored a hat-trick to bring his season tally to eight tries.
- Tonight's match was the third time this season Isaako has scored a double or more as a Dolphin.
- Cowboys forward Coen Hess was placed in the sin bin and put on report for a late tackle.
- Dolphins five-eighth Kodi Nikorima was also sent to the sin bin and put on report for a dangerous tackle.
- Prior to this game, the Cowboys had won five of their past seven games at Queensland Country Bank Stadium.
- Dolphins prop Jarrod Wallace left the field with what was reported as a Category 1 concussion, potentially ruling him out of a return to the field and next week's game against the Rabbitohs.
- Dolphins prop Mark Nicholls captained the club in the absence of regular skipper Jesse Bromwich who missed the game with a throat infection.
- Fullback Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow has now scored eight tries in six games for the Dolphins.
- The Dolphins had three former Cowboys players in their line-up, with Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, Thomas Gilbert and Connelly Leulemu all lining up against their old club.
- Winger Edrick Lee made his Dolphins debut, playing with his cousin Brenko Lee for the first time in an NRL game since their days at Canberra and the their first together since playing under current coach Bennett during the 2020 Queensland State of Origin campaign.
Play of the Game
While winger Jamayne Isaako scored some impressive tries on his way to a hat-trick, the first of Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow's two tries is hard to go past as the most exciting Dolphins try of the match, with some great lead-up play topped off by a great effort from the fullback.
Hammer time in Townsville
What They Said
"It was a great night for rugby league, it was a great crowd, a great performance from both teams, they tried their hearts out and we got away with it in the end. We kept showing up in defence in that second half, so I was really proud of that. [Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow], Tom Gilbert, Connelly [Leulemu] was a special night for all of them, was just nice to hear the crowd cheering Hammer when he was doing things." - Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett
Dolphins: Round 6
"This game is hard enough to win when you are only playing one opponent, we are playing two at the moment, ourselves and the opposition and it's near impossible to win when you are doing that. We have got to fight harder. We are just making it so hard for ourselves." - North Queensland Cowboys coach Todd Payten
Cowboys: Round 6
The Cowboys travel across the ditch to Mt Smart Stadium to face the Warriors on Saturday afternoon.
The Dolphins are back home at Suncorp Stadium next Thursday night and will host Round 6 winner the Rabbitohs, with Wayne Bennett to coach against his former team.