Under a fiery sun, red & black faithfuls descended on Leichhardt Oval last Saturday for the Preliminary Final, gathering under the shade of the N.C. (Latchem) Robinson Stand, flags ready, cold beers in hand and a sense of something big on the horizon. The New Zealand Warriors kicked off to a raring to go Bears side and for the next 40 minutes the red & black were dominant, focused and relentless. Big Regan Hughes had the honour of the first run of the game, driving into the opposition. Unfortunately, at less than two minutes into the game Hughes is placed on report for a dangerous tackle and Jake Turpin also has to leave the field for an HIA assessment, blood dripping from above his eye, and does not return to the game. The game goes on. Only moments later, Allan Fitzgibbon dives for the try line but is called into touch and denied the points. Attacking again, Jesse Marschke makes a line break, fends off the Warrior’s and charges for the white line taking the first points of the game. Ben Stevanovic nails it over the posts and the Bears lead 6 – 0. Over 15 minutes plays out under the blaring sun and the Warriors look hot and tired. The game is being played under NSWRL heat rules and a 2 minute water break occurs around the 21st minute. Taking advantage of a tired opposition, the Bears power on, the ball sweeps to the right side and Toa Mata’afa backs himself as he drives forward to secure the 4 points. Again, Stevanovic is on point and the score sits at 12 – 0. With fresh gusto, Ben Talty is subbed on and within 10 minutes he busts across the line, bowling over the opposition right beside the posts. Stevanovic easily converts and the scoreboard displays 18 – 0 to the good guys. The Bears, deservedly, are given a standing ovation by the proud fans in the stand as they head to the sheds at half time. A real sense of togetherness is felt by all in attendance.

Bears are first out on the field after the half time break, but the Warriors look to have now lifted too. Within 3 minutes of kick off the boys from across the water bust across the line and get their first points on the board. Only 6 minutes later and the Warriors are in again after a classic shows it and drive dummy half move. The game edges closer at 18 – 12. Some massive defensive work by the Bears follows as the Warriors fling a barrage of attacks at the try line after multiple sets of 6 in a row. In the 56th minute, the boys are on the attack, Jesse Marschke sees and opportunity and with a shimmy and a step nabs himself a double. Stevanovic converts and the lead extends to 24 – 12. Only moments later, the Bears sweep the ball to the wing with some fast ball work, lands in the hands of a determined Fitzgibbon who claims the points and looks to crowd to who are on their feet cheering. After successfully converting the first four kicks, Stevanovic goes just wide on the fifth and the score sits 28 – 12. With twenty minutes left in the half, the Warriors are not done yet and wreak havoc across the park running in two more converted tries. The Bears hold on, fiercely defend their lead and finally take the win! Not since 2007 and have made a Grand Final in NSW Cup and this year we are march on to the big dance this Sunday when we take on the Rabbitohs at CommBank Stadium (see more info below). Massive thank you to all the red & black members and fans who came out to support the Bears and tuned in to cheer on the boys from the live stream. The atmosphere at Leichhardt Oval was electric, we all felt it and it played an important part in bringing the win home for the team!

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What an achievement to get this far, a Grand Final! This is what we have worked hard for all year, this is what the grueling training sessions has been all about, this is what the fans have been dreaming of for 16 long years and this Sunday we get a chance to go all the way and turn our Minor Premiership into a Premiership. Two proud foundation clubs going head-to-head, in essence the real final of the inaugural Mario Fenech Cup. We welcome back into the team Terrel May and Fletcher Baker in the forward pack, and Fetalaiga (Junior) Pauga on the wing. Returning from injury is Kieran Hayman who has been biting at the bit to get back out on the field. Unfortunately, big Regan Hughes will miss the big dance due to taking an early plea on a dangerous tackle charge resulting in a one game fine. A very strong line up by the Bears this week, to match an equally strong Rabbitohs side. This will be one epic game, a game not to be missed! Get your tickets now and be there to cheer on the boys. Let them hear us ROAR!

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