By Jackson Russell
North Sydney Bears started their climb off the bottom of the table with a gritty 18-12 win over the Newcastle Knights on Sunday afternoon.
An enthusiastic second half from the Bears saw them get a late win over the Knights, who are now sitting in eighth place, while the Bears begin their task of moving off the bottom of the ladder.
The Knights were on top in the early stages of a topsy-turvy first half, where hard running from each side’s forward packs was the dominant feature. However Bears drew first blood with late inclusion Joel Reddy touching down from a messy last tackle option for a 4-0 lead.
As the first half continued to swing back and forth, Newcastle found the line with forward Brenton Horwood sliding under the posts to give the Knights a 4-6 lead at halftime.
The second half started with the Bears on the attack gaining consecutive sets in the Knights territory. Eventually the pressure showed with Nathan Merritt bursting over to give his side an 8-6 advantage.
As the half continued North Sydney were on a roll and by the 53rd minute they had their second try of the half. Playing his 100th VB NSW Cup game for the club, Curtis Johnston dived over out wide to cap his milestone day.
Once again North Sydney could not convert, leaving them 12-6 up.
The Bears looked set to run away with the game but an error from the kick off gave the Knights a chance which they took with both hands as Tyler Randall scored to tie things up at 12 all.
In the final 20 minutes each side had opportunities to take the game, however penalties and errors kept costing both sides as frustrations became evident on the field.
With 10 minutes remaining returning Bears back rower Joe Picker crossed under the posts to put the Bears in a commanding position with an 18-12 lead.
North Sydney survived late attacks from the Knights to hold on for an 18-12 victory.
Tom Burgess led the way from the front for the Bears with his strong running laying the foundations, while Joel Reddy and Nathan Merritt were lively in attack.
The Knights will be disappointed but there were positives coming through with Pat Mata’utia always looking dangerous in attack and hard running from Toka Likiliki.
Next week see’s the Bears at home again on Saturday when they face the visiting Warriors, while Newcastle will be looking to get back on track with a tough away trip against the Tigers.
North Sydney Bears 18 (J Reddy, N Merritt, C Johnston, J Picker tries; K Aldridge goal) def. Newcastle Knights 12 (B Horwood, T Randall tries; J Mantellato 2 goals) at North Sydney Oval.