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Hynes injury no excuse for big Knights loss: Sharks

Darren Pateman/AAP PHOTOS

Coach Craig Fitzgibbon concedes Cronulla missed Nicho Hynes against Newcastle but he has refused to blame a 32-6 thrashing solely on the absence of his star halfback.

Hynes, the 2022 Dally M Medallist, suffered a minor quad injury at training ahead of Sunday's clash in Newcastle and was ruled out a day before the game.

The situation forced Matt Moylan into the halves for his first start since being dropped following the hefty round-20 loss to the Warriors.

The Sharks stuck with the in-form Knights in a gritty first half but once Kalyn Ponga put the home side on the front foot, Moylan and halves partner Braydon Trindall struggled to rein them back in.

The Sharks' halves could not turn chances into points once in good field position, either - Cronulla's only try came through an individual effort from stand-in fullback Connor Tracey early on.

The big loss came after Hynes was instrumental on a three-game winning streak that helped the Sharks resurrect their season earlier this month.

"Changing the spine in any week can be difficult," Fitzgibbon said.

"Nicho was starting to find his way there and it was a big ask for Matty, who hasn't played in a number of weeks, to go back in.

"But still, I think that was one issue but there were a whole host of other individual accountability errors there.

"You've got to get your job done and I just didn't think we did that well enough tonight."

As the game wore on, the war of attrition began to break the Sharks, who missed 40 tackles after halftime and conceded five penalties to Newcastle's one.

"Once you start racking up a heap of goal-line defence, you start mounting up the errors, mounting up the penalties," Fitzgibbon said.

"Their energy shifted and the tidal wave of possession and field position ended up getting us at the end of the game."

Fitzgibbon reiterated that Hynes remained on track to face Canberra next Sunday in the Sharks' last game of the regular season.

The Sharks have likely already done enough to qualify for the finals but can confirm a top-eight berth by beating the Raiders.

"He's still running, he's still training," Fitzgibbon said of Hynes.

"It wasn't enough to get him right for today, it would've been a risk, but he should be right by the end of next week."