If it’s possible to have a finals-calibre match in Round 3 of the NRL, then the Penrith Panthers and Melbourne Storm produced just that on Thursday night, with the hosts emerging 12-10 winners at BlueBet Stadium in Penrith.
Even as the defending premiers Storm held a late 10-6 lead before Kurt Capewell’s late mazy try and Stephen Crichton’s conversion to lead the Panthers back from the dead, many Storm supporters will be left to scratch their heads as to where it all went wrong.
One thing’s for sure – Nicho Hynes cannot be blamed for the loss.
Will Hynes be an integral part of whatever game plans Storm coach Craig Bellamy draws up should these two teams meet at any in September? Not likely – in a team with an array of glittering stars such as Cameron Munster, Ryan Papenhuyzen and Josh Addo-Carr, to name a few, the versatile Hynes plays a cameo role every so often.
Thursday was one of those occasions, deputising for Papenhuyzen, who himself could not recover from a neck injury sustained in the Storm’s loss to Parramatta last week.
Hynes was playing only his 13th league match, but did everything possible to put the Storm in a position to win. (Sure, a healthy Papenhuyzen would have been a possible match-winner, but that’s a debate best reserved for two seats at the pub over at least a couple of pints of ale.)
Hynes’ statistics didn’t stand out, but he didn’t embarrass himself, either.
Playing all 80 minutes, his 20 runs were second for the Storm only to Munster’s 22, and he amassed 138 metres on his runs – lagging far behind George Jennings’ 174 and Munster’s 190.
But among those 80 minutes, he played nearly mistake-free. In doing so, he kept the Storm in the match – and in the case of Addo-Carr’s go-ahead try with 16 minutes to go, he provided the perfect pass to the speedster while drawing a double-team to free Addo-Carr up to get in via the left corner.
Hynes also did well to wrap up on the few times he was required to lay a tackle – nothing he could have done on Capewell’s powerful run right at him, he was physically overmatched – and even broke four tackles of his own.
On Justin Olam’s ultimate try-that-wasn’t as time expired, Hynes – drawing three Panthers defenders to him – did his part to keep the last-ditch desperate play alive.
Taking the place of an influential figure like Papenhuyzen was never going to be easy, even with the key preparations leading into the match. Papenhuyzen remains one of the most dynamic players that Bellamy relies upon, and missing four starters overall means that it isn’t easy to replace the three others, either.
So that requires players like Hynes to play within their own skill sets and capabilities.
Which he performed an admirable job of doing.
Nicho Hynes is one of those role players every championship-calibre team needs – and will continue to provide that in any role he’s asked to fill in for over the balance of the NRL season.
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