Kaufusi in doubt for State of Origin opener as Storm get past Dolphins (2023)

Queensland could be without Felise Kaufusi for State of Origin I after the Dolphins second rower was put on report for a high shot in his side's 24-16 loss to the Melbourne Storm at Lang Park.

In Saturday's earlier matches, the Wests Tigers posted a record score in their 66-18 thrashing of North Queensland at Leichhardt Oval, while Cronulla defeated Newcastle 26-6 in Coffs Harbour.

Kaufusi was sin-binned in the second minute of the match against the Storm for a swinging arm that collected his former teammate Christian Welch in the head.

He was suspended for four matches earlier in the season for a late and high shot on Newcastle's Jackson Hastings.

Kaufusi was set to be picked for the Maroons for the series opener in Adelaide on May 31 but the nature of the hit on Welch, combined with his record, will almost certainly count against the 31-year-old.

His likely absence for the Maroons has opened the door for Gold Coast second rower David Fifita to win selection when the Queensland squad is named on Monday.

The Dolphins will have more concerns when the match review committee convenes on Sunday after second rower Kenny Bromwich was put on report for dangerous contact on Storm fullback Nick Meaney when his former teammate was on the ground.

Storm back rower Eliesa Katoa was put on report for a hip-drop tackle but in general play he was dynamic. The former Warrior crashed over with brute strength and then showcased his ball-playing skills to put Reimis Smith over.

Kaufusi in doubt for State of Origin opener as Storm get past Dolphins (1)

The 23-year-old is proving to be one of the buys of the year and has been a key figure in the Storm's surge to a share of the premiership ladder lead.

Katoa suffered an AC joint injury in the second half and will need to have scans, but not before playing a key role in the victory.

Storm playmakers Cameron Munster and Jahrome Hughes were in masterful form. Number seven Hughes set Munster up with a sublime grubber as the duo carved up.

Munster has found his best form on the cusp of the Origin series where he will be selected in the halves with Maroons captain Daly Cherry-Evans.

The Storm led 24-4 at halftime with the Dolphins' only joy being a try to winger Jamayne Isaako after a silky pass from Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow.

The Dolphins showcased the character they have been renowned for in the second half with Isaako completing a try double and Kodi Nikorima crashing over from dummy half.

Tigers humiliate Cowboys

Kaufusi in doubt for State of Origin opener as Storm get past Dolphins (2)

Luke Brooks kickstarted a Leichhardt Oval party to celebrate his 200th NRL match, helping the Wests Tigers post the highest score in the club's history.

So often the punching bag for fans throughout his career, Tigers fans were chanting Brooks' name by the end of the match.

It came in the greatest attacking night in the history of Balmain, Western Suburbs or the joint venture, eclipsing the highest score of all three clubs to rise off the bottom of the ladder.

Apisai Koroisau also pushed his NSW State of Origin case, having a hand in two tries in the last match before Brad Fittler makes a call on what to do with the Blues' number nine jersey.

Starford To'a, David Nofoaluma and Junior Tupou all bagged doubles in the win, while John Bateman had some nice touches and Jahream Bula had the best match of his career.

And it was Brooks who engineered it all, helping the Tigers blow the Cowboys off the park in a 24-6 first half and strangling them of any ball.

A day after coach Tim Sheens revealed the club would offer him a contract beyond this year, Brooks played with an extra spring in his step.

He regularly poked his nose through the line, getting back to his running best as he opted to take the line on 21 times and make 213 metres.

Brooks set the tone for the night when he broke 50 metres down field early in the first half, before grubber-kicking later in the set to force a line dropout.

He then ran the ball on the last and helped Brandon Wakeham put Tupou over for his first try.

Another try came just before the break when Brooks kicked from close to halfway and Kyle Feldt fumbled, allowing Bula to claim his first in the NRL.

And just as the Cowboys threatened to mount a comeback from 36-6 down to 36-18, it was Brooks who helped kill their momentum.

After Bula put on a low, late offload, Brooks swooped on the ball and put on an inside pass for To'a to go over.

Koroisau was almost as impressive.

He put on the Tigers' first try when he provided a deft short ball for Stefano Utoikumanu to cross and completed a wrap-around play after halftime for Fonua Pole to go over.

It comes as Fittler weighs up whether to pick both Koroisau and Damien Cook for State of Origin or leave one of the pair out so he can play Nicho Hynes off the bench.

Bula set up another try when he put To'a over for his second, while he broke through the middle late from a Brandon Wakeham inside ball to send Bateman over.

In comparison, the Cowboys' season is on a tightrope.

Sharks win, Ponga survives HIA scare

Kaufusi in doubt for State of Origin opener as Storm get past Dolphins (3)

Incumbent Queensland fullback Kalyn Ponga was sent for a head injury assessment, while Nicho Hynes furthered his case for State of Origin selection as Cronulla moved into a share of the ladder lead with its win over Newcastle.

There were initial concerns for Ponga in the opening minutes of the match when his head made contact with the shoulder of Ronaldo Mulitalo in a tackle and the Knights five-eighth lay motionless on the ground.

But he eventually jogged from the field with the trainer and subsequently passed his HIA, deemed a category two.

"Obviously it was heavy contact," Ponga told ABC Sport.

"I went through the HIA assessment. I felt completely fine. I felt good to come back on."

When Ponga returned to the field hescored immediately to level the scores early on but Newcastle's second-half efforts were undone by errors as Cronulla logged its seventh win of the year heading into a bye next week.

Hynes was again instrumental in attack and perfect off the boot as his side registered their 11th win from the last 15 encounters against the Novocastrians.

Royce Hunt's try 10 minutes from time iced the result after Connor Tracey beat incumbent Queensland centre Dane Gagai on the outside just after halftime.

Kaufusi in doubt for State of Origin opener as Storm get past Dolphins (4)

The Sharks improved their completion rate in the second half after only taking a six-point lead into the break.

Cronulla struck first when a sideline-to-sideline play saw William Kennedy over for his 11th try of the season after dummying past Gagai and beating the tackle of Jackson Hastings.

With 13 tackles inside Newcastle's 20m line through 10 minutes, the Knights were under the pump and it was almost made worse when Tracey put Hynes over, only to be overturned due to obstruction.

Ponga's reintroduction combined with Saifiti brothers Jacob and Daniel upping the ante in midfield built well-needed pressure, and the Knights levelled the scores at the 20-minute mark.

But Tyson Frizell's error in his own half gifted an attacking scrum five minutes later and the Sharks looked in full flow.

Hynes attacked the right edge for a Jesse Ramien break then Cronulla jammed the middle with its forwards before Mulitalo scored.

With dominant territory and possession, the Sharks could not add any more points in the first half completing just 13 of their 22 sets.


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