Nicho Hynes cops truth bomb from Cooper Cronk as NRL fans fume over 'joke' decisions

The Cronulla Sharks halfback has suffered another brutal moment with the game on the line.

Things couldn't have gone any differently for Nicho Hynes and Matt Burton on Friday night after their axings from the NSW State of Origin team, with Hynes missing an absolute sitter to win the game before Burton nailed his chance. But the refereeing in the final 10 minutes left Cronulla fans fuming as the Bulldogs snathed a 15-14 win in golden-point.

The Sharks led 14-12 with 15 minutes to play, but the Bulldogs were on the receiving end of some questionable calls in the dying stages. Referee Gerard Sutton gave the Dogs two six-again calls that left commentators and fans scratching their heads, before a controversial penalty allowed them to tie the game at 14-all.

Cooper Cronk and Nicho Hynes.
Cooper Cronk pointed out that Nicho Hynes' missed field goal cost the Sharks the game. Image: Getty/Fox Sports

Toby Rudolf held Bailey Hayward back after he'd kicked the ball, although many fans thought it was an extremely generous penalty. Rudolf appeared to commit to tackling Hayward before he'd kicked the ball, and the Bulldogs player looked like he took a dive to win the penalty.

Tony Rudolf, pictured here holding Bailey Hayward off the ball.
Tony Rudolf was penalised for holding Bailey Hayward off the ball. Image: Channel 9

Hayward also had no chance of regathering the ball as it went straight to Sharks fullback Will Kennedy, but Sutton still gave the Dogs a penalty that saw them take an easy two points to draw level. Sharks fans were even more infuriated not long after when a blatant high tackle on Kennedy was ignored, before Sutton pinged Oregon Kaufusi for being an illegal blocker when Braydon Trindall was attempting a field goal.

Kaufusi should've known better than to be standing where he was, although replays showed Max King wasn't even running in the right direction when he barrelled into the Sharks prop. King appeared to run directly toward Kaufusi (and not towards Trindall) so he could draw contact and milk a penalty.

Max King, pictured here appearing to run into Oregon Kaufusi to draw the penalty.
Max King appeared to run into Oregon Kaufusi to draw the penalty. Image: Channel 9

Despite the controversial calls, the Sharks still had the perfect chance to win the game when Hynes had a shot at field goal from just 15 metres out in golden point. But the Cronulla halfback sprayed his shot badly, which allowed the Bulldogs to march downfield and set up Burton for the game-winning one-pointer.

It came as another brutal development for Hynes, who missed a sideline conversion after the siren against the Dolphins two weeks ago in their 30-28 loss. Hynes has been kicking brilliantly in 2024, but only made one conversion from three attempts on Friday night - which proved costly.

The halfback would have been keen for a strong response after being axed from the NSW team for State of Origin 2, but is now facing even more pressure. NRL fans couldn't help but point out that Hynes has failed to fire in the clutch in two Cronulla losses in a row.

Nicho Hynes.
Nicho Hynes looks on during Cronulla's loss to the Bulldogs. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

"It's going to shape him," Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon said after the game. "He's got to go through it, it's part of the responsibility for him. He's accepting of that. He's been stung before, he's carried his divots a little bit but the last couple of weeks, he acknowledges it.

"It'll sting, of course it's going to sting, but I feel like he's ready to keep going after the moments. He didn't shy away from it, he put himself in position, but he's got to ice it."

Matt Burton, pictured here celebrating with Bulldogs teammates.
Matt Burton celebrates with Bulldogs teammates after beating the Sharks. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

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Cooper Cronk said in commentary for Fox Sports: “Nicho Hynes will have to pull himself up off the canvas again. He missed an absolute sitter there that ultimately cost them the game.”

James Graham added: “You do have to feel for Nicho. Really, you should be nailing that. A couple of missed conversions too, granted they were difficult but if he lands one of them, they’re not in this position.”

Cronk said he’d been in the same position many times before. “I’ve been in this position, I’ve missed more than I’ve kicked in my time,” he said. “Every time you miss one, the harder it is to kick the next one. He just has to get back to work, get back to grinding.

“He needs to kick the ball 100 times in this situation to get another chance. We spoke about mental resilience he’d need to bounce back, but that’s going to take a bit of work for Nicho to get over that one.”