Cronulla Sharks halfback and Dally M contender Nicho Hynes has expressed his frustration with a sin-bin call that proved costly in the thrilling qualifying final showdown with North Queensland Cowboys.

The decision was made in the final 10 minutes of the second half, when Sharks winger Connor Tracey appeared to obstruct eventual match-winner Valentine Holmes as he chased a Chad Townsend grubber.

The two collided in goal, and though it could be argued Tracey was simply going for the ball, he wrapped his arms around the Cowboys centre and severely impeded Holmes’ ability to collect the pill, giving the referee little option but to act.

With Tracey off the field and fatigue setting in, the Cowboys were able to score a converted try and penalty goal to bring scores level before eventually winning the game in golden point.

Asked for comment in the immediate aftermath of Valentine Holmes’ 40-metre match-winner, Hynes was still thinking about the Tracey decision when he spoke to Channel 9.

“A bit hard done by, I reckon, that sin-bin,” Hynes said.

“Shoulder-to-shoulder and you get sin-binned for that? But we’ve still got to defend our line there.”

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 28: Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon watches his players warm up during the round eight NRL match between the Brisbane Broncos and the Cronulla Sharks at Suncorp Stadium, on April 28, 2022, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon was pragmatic in discussing the issue after the game, choosing his words carefully but conceding the effect of being a man down.

“It was a huge moment, obviously,” the coach said.

“I thought we were hanging in quite well but we probably freaked a little bit with 12 on the field.

The Sharks will now face either the Sydney Roosters or South Sydney Rabbitohs in an elimination semi-final.