NRL 2024: Nicho Hynes, Craig Fitzgibbon, Round 15, Cronulla Sharks, loss, sideline conversion, State of Origin

Nicho Hynes ultimately wasn’t the right man for the winning moment, but Craig Fitzgibbon was keen to shift the blame away from the halfback after his failure to convert on the sideline after the siren in the 30-28 defeat to the Dolphins.

Wayne Bennett’s side took the lead early in the first half thanks to four tries in the opening 24 minutes, only for Fitzgibbon’s side to take the lead back in impressive fashion after 52 minutes.

A piece of magic from Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow broke down the Sharks defense and looked almost certain to give the Dolphins the two points, only for a late Sione Katoa try to give Hynes a chance to send the game into extra time.

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Hynes, needing a big game to keep his Origin hopes alive, missed from the touchline, but Fitzgibbon was quick to defend his halfback in the post-match press conference.

Hynes’ name was trending on Twitter after the match with the social media platform was flooded with claims that Hynes wasn’t “clutch” enough to claim the No. 1 sweater. 7 of NSW.

“It’s unfair to blame the loss on a goal kicker when we allowed 22 points in the first half,” Fitzgibbon said.

“The answers (for the defeat) lie in our defensive line in the first half.”

Fitzgibbon said there were many factors behind his team’s slow start, including a five-day turnaround following his team’s crushing Round 14 win over the Brisbane Broncos and loss to the Dolphins, but he could make no excuses for how they behaved.

Craig Fitzgibbon on the cruel death of Nicho Hynes |  Cronulla Sharks press conference

“There’s no excuse (for the slow start). There are a lot of reasons (for this),” she said.

“We worked hard to not let anything creep in. No excuses, just show up, gather the right energy and turn it on.

“Unfortunately we couldn’t get it started and then we started it, but it was too late.

“(There was) clearly a bit of a hangover at the beginning. We just looked numb on defense. Then we got to the point where it looked terrible, and then we did something about it.

“I was really happy with the second half and we only had one moment with the Hammer. Game over.”

Hammer LIGHTS the burners for a miracle attempt!

Fitzgibbon believes the Dolphins, coming into this clash following last week’s bye, were more energetic than Cronulla, particularly in the early stages of the match.

“You could tell they had come to play. We weren’t energetic enough to get it done,” she said.

In his mind, the points the Sharks allowed early in the game were only half the problem with his team’s slow start.

“Taking away the points and energy cost early in the game was too much to overcome,” Fitzgibbon said.

Cronulla farewelled round 16 with their coach admitting his team “could have a bit of rest”, however he was adamant they “have some work to do”.

Originally published as ‘Unfair’: Sharks coach defends Hynes after golden opportunity goes up in smoke

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