Pangai power fires Dolphins to vital win over Rabbitohs

Tevita Pangai Jnr has delivered as only he can to give the Dolphins and his mentor Wayne Bennett a vital 36-28 win over South Sydney.

All the talk before the match at Kayo Stadium on Thursday night was about how the Rabbitohs had won five games in a row since Bennett had signed to return to Redfern in 2025.

The mastercoach had vowed pre-match that his focus was solely on the Dolphins and Pangai Jnr, and his teammates, backed Bennett up to the hilt.

Both sides scored six tries but winger Jamayne Isaako landed six goals from as many attempts for the hosts to keep them in sixth position in forward Kenny Bromwich's 250th NRL match.

"I thought our scramble kept us in the game but at the end of the day we want to win the game, so while we are happy with the effort we need to be a bit smarter," Rabbitohs coach Ben Hornby said. 

The sour note for the Dolphins was when forward Euan Aitken suffered a suspected ruptured pectoral in the first half.

Halves Kodi Nikorima and Isaiaya Katoa, along with lightning quick fullback Trai Fuller, shone but it was Pangai in his third match back in the NRL after a stint in boxing who provided the impetus.

Kodi Nikorima.
Kodi Nikorima (l) had a big game for the Dolphins at home to Souths.

Pangai, one of those many players who performs his best under Bennett, had a near perfect opening stint that showcased intent, power and skill.

His 97m from 10 carries in the opening 26 minutes - which included two offloads, three tackle busts and a try - set the tone for the home side.

The Dolphins led 24-10 early in the second half but the visitors narrowed the margin to six before a Pangai offload ignited a try for Sean O'Sullivan.

"I was really pleased with him," Bennett said of Pangai.

"We've lost (Queensland prop) Tom Flegler (to injury) and we all know what he brings," added the Dolphins coach. "Tevita is a similar type of player and we needed a forward who can do that stuff.

"He got a try, set one up and was very dominant.We needed to get the win badly and we got it."

Pangai snaffled a bomb in his own in-goal with intinct and class early in the match and in the next set winger Jack Bostock finished a sweeping movement after a superb cutout pass by Fuller.

Fuller then interfered with Souths fullback Jye Gray when attempting to score and The Bunker ruled a penalty try to level it up.

Pangai's brute strength then pulverised three defenders to score from close range.

Rabbitohs talisman Cody Walker sent winger Jacob Gagai over with a scintillating pass in the corner.

Gray saved a try with a gutsy tackle on Bostock before Dolphins centre Herbie Farnworth stepped and powered his way over for an 18-10 halftime lead.

Katoa put a sublime kick through for Nikorima to score after the break. Gray set up Gagai for his second of the night before winger Alex Johnston went over and it was game on.

Pangai's crucial offload then kicked the home side ahead before Fuller streaked away to seal the deal, despite Johnston scoring his second and Gagai notching a hat-trick late.

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