Nicho Hynes bests Ben Hunt as Cronulla belts St George 52-16

Nicho Hynes was in fine touch as Cronulla trounced St George Illawarra.

Nicho Hynes was in fine touch as Cronulla trounced St George Illawarra. Photo: AAP

Ben Hunt has spent the week in the headlines but it was opposite number Nicho Hynes who stole the show as Cronulla eased to a 52-16 NRL thrashing of beleaguered St George Illawarra.

All eyes were on Hunt in his first game since the Dragons rejected his mid-season move to the Broncos, with the Dragons pursuing an upset of their local rivals on Thursday night.

Kept quiet for the majority of the game at Shark Park, the halfback must have felt every bit of 945 kilometres from Brisbane as the Dragons conceded more points than in any previous game against Cronulla.

Hunt ran the line that led to the Dragons’ second try but went missing in the second half as Cronulla piled the points on with five unanswered tries.

Hynes, meanwhile, continued his upward trajectory since being dropped from the NSW State of Origin side and was instrumental in establishing a half-time lead that Cronulla never surrendered.

The Sharks could finish the weekend as high as second on the ladder, while the Dragons continue to languish in last place, yet to win away from home in 2023.

The Dragons were up for the fight early and made the most of a Sharks error to cross through Mikaele Ravalawa in their first set.

But as was the case in last week’s loss to the Warriors, their left edge defence was a major source of weakness – three of Cronulla’s four first-half tries came down that edge, with two more following in the second half.

Hynes hit an open hole to go through untouched and then sent Briton Nikora over with the same play, while Jesse Ramien had no competition in the air as he brought down a Matt Moylan kick to score.

Hynes’ inside ball gave towering prop Tom Hazelton his second try in as many games, much to the delight of the Cronulla crowd that is fast considering him a favourite.

Dragons fullback Tyrell Sloan scored a contender for try of the year after the break when his kick return turned into a 90-metre dash in which he beat six defenders and dived over.

But that was as close as Saints came to snatching the lead back, winger Ronaldo Mulitalo crossing for a double and Nikora again running the perfect line as the Sharks weaponised the edges for a big victory

The Sharks lost prop Braden Hamlin-Uele at half-time to a rib cartilage injury he suffered in the first hit-up of the game.

Cronulla co-captain Dale Finucane was placed on report for a dangerous throw on prop Blake Lawrie, with Saints’ Tatau Moga a chance to join him on the charge sheet for hitting Ramien high.

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