Star Cronulla signing Nicho Hynes is proving a valuable asset as he led the Sharks to a handsome 36-12 NRL win over arch-rivals St George Illawarra at Wollongong’s rain-soaked WIN Stadium.
Hynes had his fingerprints all over the Sharks’ second win of the season with a personal tally of 16 points (try and six goals), combined with his 15 kicks for 552 metres, a line-break, a try assist and four tackle-busts.
Then again the Sharks were solid everywhere – six players ran for over 100 metres.
Sharks’ coach Craig Fitzgibbon liked what he saw from his forwards as well as his halves.
“Even with the conditions we did get some nice footy on there,” Fitzgibbon said.
“We seemed to have the knack of making the most of our opportunities tonight.”
It was a bitter pill for the Dragons to swallow. That’s now four straight wins to the Sharks in the much-anticipated derby clash.
The 24-point win rocketed the Sharks from 10th on the NRL ladder to third, albeit there are still seven games to be played this weekend.
But Dragons coach Anthony Griffin believes the Sharks are already showing they can remain a top-four side throughout the season.
“You’ve got to give Cronulla some credit – they were outstanding, particularly their defensive effort,” Griffin said.
“In simple areas like kick-chase, staying alive on last play, turning up in defence we weren’t there tonight.”
But the dominance and slickness of the win in trying conditions, will keep other teams looking over their shoulders as Cronulla thrive under Fitzgibbon.
The new coach, though, wasn’t ready to stake his claim just yet that the Sharks are finals material.
“It’s too early to say. I’m happy with the way we’re building and the connections and cohesion we’re forming. But we’ve still got some work to do in playing for the whole 80 minutes,” he said.
Case in point was the three tries in the first half as Cronulla defied the wet and windy conditions by throwing the ball around freely. They jumped out to 18-0 at the break.
It was deja vu for Griffin as he watched his backrower Jaydn Su’a sent to the sin bin, as happened against Penrith last weekend.
The Panthers scored twice, while the Dragons were reduced to 12 men, and the Sharks did it to them again.
First Sione Katoa went over in the right corner and then Matt Ikavalu crossed in the left. The Dragons tried to reply but Ben Hunt was held up over the line and Mikaele Ravalawa was pushed into touch.
Then desperation started to set in for the home side, as the teams headed to the sheds to dry out a little, after Siosifa Talakai retrieved a Hynes kick for Cronulla’s third try.
The Sharks made four line-breaks in the opening 40 minutes, but Dragons pulled one back early in the second half when Hunt put Jack Bird through a hole allowing the 27-year-old to score against his old club.
But Cronulla then shifted the ball left, up the middle and right, with nine players having a hand in Jesse Ramien’s try to push the margin out to 18 points once again (24-6).
They extended their lead through prop Braden Hamlin-Uele and Hynes.
Dragons bench forward Jack Gosiewski scored with seven minutes left on the clock, but the damage had been done.