Hynes stars in win over Roosters to push Origin case

Jasper Bruce |

Nicho Hynes (R) celebrates one of six Cronulla tries in the high-scoring win over the Roosters.
Nicho Hynes (R) celebrates one of six Cronulla tries in the high-scoring win over the Roosters.

Nicho Hynes’ State of Origin case is fast becoming irresistible after the halfback starred in Cronulla’s 38-30 defeat of the Sydney Roosters at Suncorp Stadium.

Saturday night’s clash lived up to its billing as a Magic Round blockbuster, with a see-sawing battle of two presumptive NRL finalists unfolding.

But of the many superstars on both sides, Hynes stood tallest on return from a minor calf injury to help solidify his chances of earning a recall for injury-hit NSW in the series opener on June 5.

With their second defeat of a premiership heavyweight in as many weeks, the ladder-leading Sharks are now surely on the cusp of shaking their tag as flat-track bullies.

Next week’s clash against triple reigning premiers Penrith looks set to be the ultimate test.

“I thought we were under the pump for the most part but still kept hanging in, found a way. That was the most pleasing part,” Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon said of the win.

“I don’t think we were as good as we have been the last few weeks, but I think they put us under pressure and made us feel that way. Pleasing to get out of it.”

In the opening minute of the game, Hynes triggered the bold last-tackle play that produced the Sharks’ first try; his one-two with Briton Nikora down the right edge laid the platform for Will Kennedy to score once Dom Young fumbled Jesse Ramien’s chip kick.

As the sides continued to swap tries, Hynes caught James Tedesco napping with as precise a 40/20 kick you will see, then sent Teig Wilton over for a four-pointer with a well-placed flat pass.

Sione Katoa.
Cronulla’s Sione Katoa touches down for a spectacular try against the Roosters. (Jason O’BRIEN/AAP PHOTOS)

The scoring dried up from both sides after a 24-18 first half, but Hynes’ penalty goal gave the Sharks a buffer midway through the period.

Hynes put the issue beyond doubt by throwing the last pass to Tom Hazelton, the cult hero prop barging over to seal the result in the last two minutes.

“(Hynes) did really well,” Fitzgibbon said.

“He had a really selfless attitude to play (after his calf injury). It was a slight risk, but the medical guys did a good job with him.”

The Roosters were in the fight right up until Hazelton’s try; they did well to punish Cronulla’s errors and flaunt silky second-phase play in the first half.

“I really like some of the stuff we’re doing,” said Roosters coach Trent Robinson.

“We just need to get harder in some of the areas there – getting out of our own end, lots of errors, lots of opportunity and then lots of missed tackles.

“Any time you leak 38 points, you’re not going to win a game.”

Wallaby-in-waiting Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii had a night to remember and continues to press his own case for an Origin debut, sending Young over for his first try with a flick pass, and later putting Nat Butcher into space with an offload.

Suaalii went to the sin bin for a professional foul in the first half.

All eyes were on off-contract second-rower Angus Crichton after David Fifita left the Roosters at the altar this week, but the in-form Rooster had an off night.

He lost the ball in the ruck just after halftime, inviting the Sharks to draw level through Siosifa Talakai, then came up with another error while the Roosters were on the attack down 26-24.

Roosters five-eighth Luke Keary left the game in the final minutes after appearing to suffer a head knock, but Robinson confirmed after the match he had passed his head injury assessment.