Nicho Hynes starred on the field as Cronulla delivered a devastating 52-16 thrashing to St George Illawarra, overshadowing the attention placed on Dragons‘ halfback Ben Hunt. This match marked Hunt’s first game since his mid-season move to the Broncos was rejected by the Dragons, and all eyes were on him as the Dragons aimed for an upset against their local rivals. However, Hunt had a relatively quiet game as the Sharks dominated, leaving him feeling far from Brisbane as the Dragons suffered their highest-ever points conceded against Cronulla.
Despite the heavy defeat, the Dragons refused to attribute it to the distractions of the week. Hunt stated that the team had prepared well and felt confident heading into the match, emphasizing the need for the group to come together and fight harder. Interim coach Ryan Carr echoed this sentiment, insisting that the team had moved on from Hunt’s failed bid for release and that he remained an integral part of their plans for the rest of the season.
On the other side, Hynes continued his impressive form after being dropped from the NSW State of Origin squad. He played a pivotal role in establishing Cronulla’s lead at halftime, which they never relinquished. Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon praised Hynes’ performance, crediting it to the strong team effort and everyone else fulfilling their roles effectively.
The win puts the Sharks in contention for a high ladder position, possibly reaching second place, while the Dragons remain at the bottom, still without an away victory in 2023. The Dragons started the match with intensity, scoring a try through Mikaele Ravalawa in their first set. However, their defense on the left edge proved to be a weakness, with three of Cronulla’s first-half tries exploiting that area. This trend continued in the second half, with two more tries coming from that edge.
Hynes demonstrated his versatility by scoring a try and setting up another for Briton Nikora with the same play. Jesse Ramien also scored, taking advantage of an accurate kick from Matt Moylan. Tom Hazelton, a fan favorite, scored his second try in as many games after receiving an inside ball from Hynes. In a memorable moment, Dragons‘ fullback Tyrell Sloan produced a contender for try of the year, showcasing his speed and evasiveness to score from a kick return.
Despite the comprehensive victory, Fitzgibbon believed that the scoreboard did not reflect the true physical nature of the game, acknowledging that the Dragons had shown strength and put up a fight early on. The Sharks did suffer a setback when prop Braden Hamlin-Uele sustained a rib injury in the first hit-up of the game and was unable to play in the second half.