Burgess sent off in extra time as Hynes kicks Sharks to 86th minute field goal win


Nicho Hynes has kicked the Cronulla Sharks to a 21-20 victory in a chaotic golden point game in which Tom Burgess was sent from the field in extra time.

In the NRL week that has had everything, perhaps we should have expected the unexpected. Certainly, few could have predicted a finish like this.

Watched on by a raucous, sold out Shark Park, both sides failed to put the other away and missed five field goal attempts between them before Hynes landed the sixth.

Deep into the second period of extra time, Burgess was sent from the field for a high shot on Ronaldo Mulitalo, presenting the field position from which the Sharks got their goal.

The result strengthens their top four claims, both by moving Cronulla back a win ahead of Melbourne and by diminishing the threat of Souths. Had the Bunnies won, they would have drawn level on 26 points. Instead, they are now rank outsiders for the top four.

It was the strangest of contests. These are clearly two good sides, but it would be hard to say that either were anywhere near their best.

When Souths were on, they looked superb, but struggled to string more than ten minutes of pressure together at a time.

Their set ends were often poor, with Lachlan Ilias caught twice on the last, and on other occasions, they seemed simply unwilling to throw the ball in their characteristic manner.

Plenty of the credit for that can go to Cronulla. Their ability to change momentum, particularly through the kicking of Hynes and the hard carries of their backs, brought them back into the game.

They would then fade out of it through errors. The Sharks made ten in the second half alone, inviting their opponents back in when it would have been possible to close the game out.

Both sides struggled with injuries. Jed Cartwright departed with a hamstring issue, forcing a reshuffle that put Kodi Nikorima to fullback and Latrell Mitchell to the centres. Out there, his influence was much diminished.

The Sharks lost Royce Hunt after 15 minutes and Andrew Fifita and Wade Graham for periods to concussion tests.

Souths flew out of the blocks. They put an early two on the board via a Mitchell penalty goal, before Alex Johnston got his now-obligatory try at the corner on the left side. He got a near-obligatory new record, too, moving into the all time top ten for tryscorers.

Souths then ceded momentum totally. From the moment Johnston crossed to half time, they had 40% of the ball and a third of the territory.

It took a while for the Sharks to strike, but once they did, they barely left the Bunnies’ end. They unveiled their favourite move, a deep right shift with men in motion that got Connor Tracey outside Johnston and into the corner.

Souths’ goalline was holding up pretty well. They repelled near-constant attack, leaving Cronulla with just a penalty goal for Hynes to show for their efforts.

It was going to take something seriously special to breach the line, and it came via Mulitalo. Hynes floated a kick that came down on top of Lachlan Ilias, and the winger rose high, hung in the air and plummeted to earth for one of the most spectacular tries of the year.

Though Cronulla went to the break 14-8 ahead, they might have thought that it should have been more.

Certainly, when Latrell Mitchell touched down just minutes into the second half, they will have been thinking that.

Just like the first half, however, Souths faded ten minutes in. Cam McInnes went close, but knocked on as he stretched for the line, but moments later, Andrew Fifita rolled back the years with a bustling, battering ram try.

Fifita was then taken off for a dubious HIA – the man himself, who had the crowd cheering his every move, was less than impressed – and it kicked South Sydney back into gear.

They swept right to left and got Walker free, before pinning Hynes next to a post. The Bunnies flew into tackles and forced the Sharks to kick from their own 20.

They never relinquished the field position and, after building patiently, dropped Junior Tatola on an inside line to level the scores. The home fans screamed for a double movement, but the bunker let it stand.

In golden point, Mitchell and Matt Moylan both had two attempts go wide, forcing a second half of extra time. Tom Burgess made a huge break to present another chance, but Mitchell, again, made a meal of it.

As the Sharks returned the ball up the field, they hit to the left, broke the line through Mulitalo and as he looked to go clear, Burgess blindsided him high.

The England prop was sent from the field, Cronulla kicked into position and Hynes did the rest.

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