The North Sydney Bears are unlucky to walk away from Chatswood Oval empty handed in a hard fought battle, going down 16-18.
If you told any Rugby Union fan that a team called Norths wearing red and black, would fill the stands at Chatswood Oval, well they might just call you crazy.
The North Sydney Bears ran onto Chatswood Oval as the home team for the first time since 1936 in front of a sizeable crowd of Bears faithful to face cross-town counterparts Wests Tigers.
Despite the greasy conditions, the game started end to end. The Bears were notably expansive in attack, moving the ball around the ruck area.
Yet it was the Wests Tigers who broke the deadlock 25 minutes into the game with hooker Jacob Liddle breaking through the line before finding five-eighth Justin Hunt on the inside for a try under the posts. Jordan Rankin converted to put the Tigers up 0-6.
The Bears then took control of momentum bombarding the Wests Tigers line.
As the game approached the 30-minute mark quick hands down the left edge saw Norths half Luke Kelly’s pass just picked off with the line in sight.
Soon after, electrifying halfback Eli Levido fumbled just 5 metres out from the try line after an exciting chip and chase play. Another sweeping back line play saw Abbas Miski almost over in on the left edge.
Finally, at the 35th minute mark, a scrum 40 metres out from the line laid the foundation for Robbie Rochow to bust through the Tigers defence, before giving it up to Levido who beat the defenders with a deathly dummy and scoring under the posts against his old club. The halfback guiding the kick over to make it 6-6.
At halftime, it was all locked up at 6-6. Notable first half performances included the back 3 of Robinson, Nielson and Miski who fielded countless kicks in less than favourable conditions, as well as skipper Brad Deitz, who’s quick ball got Norths attacking on all cylinders.
The second half got off to a slow, grind it out start. The Bears showed grit in holding off Wests.
Back to back sets for the Bears led to a beautiful left edge move, which saw winger Abbas Maski cross in the corner on the 53rd minute. The conversion was missed, leaving the score at 10-6.
Soon after Norths were over again when in the 61st minute halfback Levido regathered a lucky bounce off his own kick and crossed under the posts. The conversion was successful, Bears up 16-6.
Wests responded strongly, dominating possession and field position. A tremendous Cameron Murray tackle saved an easy try and forced a knock on, Cameron putting his hat in the ring for defensive play of the game.
Eventually, the Tigers ran in a converted try to centre Nathan Milone in the 67th minute. Pulling closer to a tense 16-12 score line.
As the game reached its final 10 minutes, the Bears forwards put huge defensive sets together, holding off the surging opposition.
A simple short ball by Wests saw Joel Edwards crash over with the clock in single figures. A successful conversion put the boys from Leichhardt up 18-16.
From that point the Tigers played safe footy, denying a tired Norths team any chance of grabbing victory.
The Bears did finish with one last flurry in the final 5 minutes forcing repeat sets and a knock on, yet the clock was not on the side of the red and black.
The final score 16-18 as the Bears were handed their first defeat of the season.
The Bears go from one beautiful suburban ground to another next round as they take their talents to Belmore to face the Bulldogs next Saturday 8th April at 3 pm.
WESTS TIGERS 18 (tries: Justin Hunt 2, Joel Edwards, conversions: Jordan Rankin 3),
def NORTH SYDNEY BEARS 16 (tries: Abbas Miski, Eli Levido 2, conversions: Eli Levido 2).
1 Latrell Robinson
2 Dane Nielsen
3 Edward Murphy
4 Tyrell Fuimaono
5 Abbas Miski
6 Luke Kelly
7 Eli Levido
18 Robbie Rochow
9 Bradley Deitz (C)
10 Dave Tyrrell
11 Cameron Murray
12 Tautalatasi Tasi
13 Cheyne Whitelaw
8 Toby Rudolf
14 Piki Rogers
17 Patrice Siolo
19 Fred Junior Mauala