The NRL's match review committee has decided not to punish Nicho Hynes after the Cronulla halfback gave touch judge Belinda Sharpe a spray on Sunday. Hynes cut a frustrated figure as the Sharks went down 30-26 to Manly in another worrying performance from the premiership contenders.
At one stage the Sea Eagles led 30-0, and a remarkable comeback from the Sharks proved too little, too late. Things boiled over early in the second half when Sharpe called Hynes for a forward pass to deny Sione Katoa a try in the corner.
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The pass appeared to be backwards out of Hynes' hands, and the star halfback gave the touch judge a piece of his mind. "Belinda," he shouted across the field. "That's three."
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Hynes appeared to be suggesting that Sharpe had made three bad calls in the game, prompting a stern response from main referee Peter Gough. “Nicho, Nicho, come here,” Gough said.
“Don’t say another word... don’t walk away from me, come here. You do not have the right to talk to me or my team in any manner. Do it again and you’ll find yourself off the field, enough.”
Hynes replied: “What did I say? I said 'that’s three'.”
Cooper Cronk praised the referee for the way he handled the incident, saying: “Well handled by the referee. They are under pressure and Nicho Hynes absolutely gave the touch judge a gob-full. The touch judge was right there... that doesn’t give Nicho Hynes the right.”
NRL reviews Nicho Hynes spray towards touch judge
According to veteran journalist Phil Rothfield, the NRL's match review committee reviewed the incident. However there was no sanction handed down when the charge sheet was released on Monday.
Rothfield pointed out that Brisbane fullback Reece Walsh recently served a three-match suspension for abusing a referee, however on that occasion he was deemed to have called the official a 'c***'. “The NRL are going to listen to audio today... they are just going to check it out,” Rothfield said on the Big Sports Breakfast. “The pass that Nicho blew up about, I have seen hundreds of them that haven’t been pulled back.
“I’m not complaining because the Sharks didn’t deserve to win yesterday, I’m just trying to highlight frustration... and Nicho out of character might have said something to the touch judge. The referee did have to warn him not to speak to his officials in the manner which he did.”
Hynes did however receive a $1000 fine for tripping Manly centre Tolu Koula.
Speaking in his post-match press conference, Cronulla coach Craig Fitzgibbon said he would ask the NRL for an explanation over a number of calls. The bunker had earlier ruled Ronaldo Mulitalo lost possession of the ball when trying to ground it in the left corner, with video replays appearing to show no separation.
"I don't usually complain about officials but I'll have to talk to someone during the week because I don't know what was going on there," Fitzgibbon said after Gough blew 20 penalties - 11 to Manly. "If I start raising which issues were hard calls, we'll be here a while."
The Sharks have now fallen to sixth on the ladder on 26 points, and are no certainties to make the finals. The Rabbitohs are currently in ninth place on 24 points (equal with Parramatta in eighth), while the Knights and Sea Eagles are banging on the door on 23 points.
"I'm not worried. We're not in the finals yet," Fitzgibbon said. "Penrith won't let us back in if we start like that (against them next week). So that's the challenge ahead of us.
"We're looking forward to that. We'll have to dust ourselves off after that one, obviously, and get going because we definitely missed it there. (against Manly)."
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