‘Bad as it gets’: Hip drop send off debate erupts over ‘god awful’ Max Plath tackle in Dolphins win over Titans

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The Dolphins have moved to the top of the NRL ladder after heaping the misery on the hapless Gold Coast Titans in a 30-14 win on Saturday night.

The NRL’s newest team responded to a slow start, bouncing back to score five unanswered tries to run away with the victory to move into first place, one differential point ahead of the Panthers albeit with games to play in round four.

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But Wayne Bennett’s men will be sweating on the immediate future of 22-year-old lock Max Plath, who will no doubt catch the attention of the Match Review Committee after a horrific hip drop tackle in the first half of the clash.

The rise of the hip drop tackle has drawn the ire of fans, coaches and pundits alike since becoming a hot-button issue in the game.

The tackle involves defenders dropping their weight onto the lower leg of the players they’re trying to tackle and has already led to length lay-offs from injuries caused by the act.

With 13 minutes left in the first half and the Titans leading 10-6, the Dolphins lock dropped onto the ankle of Titans winger Phillip Sami, who immediately clutched at his ankle.

Plath also knew he’d done wrong, putting his hand up in apology as it sparked a push and shove.

“That looked ugly,” commentator Dan Ginnane said on Fox League.

Corey Parker added: “(He) just gets it wrong, it’s the right call and puts his team under enormous amounts of pressure. It looks very ugly.”

It was particularly ugly as Sami was pulled back over by Mark Nichols who came over the top.

Plath appeared consigned to his fate as soon as the incident happened, and was sent to the sin bin.

Luckily for the Titans, Sami also got back to his feet and continued playing, scoring the last try of the game.

But as Plath was sent to the bin, the crowd were chanting “off”, with fans online questioning whether the act deserved more than just a sin bin.

Western Weekender reporter Lachlan Jeffrey posted: “This has to be a sin bin at least. Could even be a send off.”

All Things Rugby League said the tackle was “god awful” before adding: “If a hip drop is punishable by a send off. This one should get it. That was as bad as it gets.”

One fan tweeted: “That is one of the worst hip drops seen, talk about a brain snap.”

Another fan commented: “Really bad hip drop. That’s a send off,” while another said it was “horrible to watch”.

Another suggested: “The @NRL is so weak, stupid and cowardly that they will never get the hip drop out of the game. Their failure to direct referees to send players off is a disgrace.”

Many more suggested the youngster would be facing several weeks on the sidelines.

Speaking post-match, Bennett defended his young charge, saying it wasn’t a malicious act, but that the club would deal with any charge for Plath.

“They’ll have to look at it but it’s a difficult area the hip drop,” Bennett said. “Max Plath hasn’t got a dirty bone in his body so it wasn’t intentional.

“We don’t coach it, we don’t talk about it, we don’t practice it, and if it’s gone wrong, it’s gone wrong and we’ll just have to pay the consequences.”

When Titans coach Des Hasler was asked about it, he said: “It was put on report, so it’ll go through the normal process.”

Infuriatingly for Hasler, the match appeared to turn on the sin bin as the Titans began to over play their hand and allowed the Dolphins back into the match.

Although they didn’t concede during the sin bin disadvantage, the Dolphins took the lead at the break through Jack Bostock’s second try of the match.

It was all the Dolphins after the break with tries to Herbie Farnworth, Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow and Josh Kerr running up a scoreline and leaving the Titans as the only team without a win in 2024.