After conceding a whopping 102 points in their previous three losses, the Sharks came out with a strong defensive effort, holding the Rabbitohs scoreless for the majority of the game. With over 48,000 fans in attendance at Optus Stadium, Hynes played a crucial role in his side’s victory, setting up three of the Sharks‘ four tries and making 11 runs in the first receiver’s position. This win keeps Cronulla’s hopes of securing a top-four spot alive.
The match started with a promising display from the Sharks, as Latrell Mitchell made a textbook tackle to prevent Cronulla’s Connor Tracey from scoring the opening try in the seventh minute. The Sharks continued to target the Rabbitohs‘ right edge, and their persistence paid off when winger Mawene Hiroti beat Tyrone Munro and Cody Walker before stepping inside Mitchell to score in the 18th minute. The Sharks extended their lead when centre Jesse Ramien brushed off Alex Johnston and Isaiah Tass to set up winger Sione Katoa for a try in the 25th minute. Katoa’s outstanding individual effort, where he evaded Mitchell after escaping Walker’s tackle, showcased his skill and determination.
Cronulla further solidified their lead when Nicho Hynes kicked a penalty goal in the 33rd minute, bringing the score to 14-0. The Rabbitohs had a couple of opportunities to score in the first half, with Siosifa Talakai intercepting a pass from Lachlan Ilias in the 30th minute, and Alex Johnston narrowly putting his foot in touch as he attempted to score a try just before halftime. Despite their efforts, Souths couldn’t find a way through the Sharks‘ defense and entered the break trailing 14-0.
The Sharks continued their dominance in the second half, as Hynes set up Braydon Trindall for his first of two tries just five minutes after halftime. The Rabbitohs had a momentary chance when Campbell Graham was held up by Hiroti in the 52nd minute, but the Sharks quickly turned the tables and scored a stunning team try. Trindall initiated the play with a grubber kick to Hiroti, who cleverly kept the ball in play before Talakai picked it up and kicked it infield. Trindall then collected the ball and dived over the try line to score.
Leading 24-0, it seemed like the Sharks were on their way to a comfortable victory. However, the Rabbitohs suddenly found their rhythm as Walker and Mitchell combined to create space for Johnston to score in the 64th minute. Just a minute later, Johnston turned provider, sprinting down the sideline before kicking infield for an unmarked Ilias to catch the ball and score. The Rabbitohs‘ late surge continued with a try from Tass in the 74th minute, but it proved to be too little, too late.
Although the Rabbitohs launched a comeback attempt, the Sharks held on to secure a much-needed victory. This win not only breaks their losing streak but also keeps them in contention for a spot in the top four. Hynes showcased his exceptional skills throughout the game, demonstrating his ability to create opportunities for his teammates and make crucial contributions to both attack and defense. The Sharks will be hoping to build on this performance and carry the momentum into their upcoming matches.