By Lars Roy at Ringrose Park
The North Sydney Bears have opened their 2015 campaign with a solid team performance away from home after defeating Wentworthville Magpies 30-16.
Despite a strengthened Magpies team that saw only three players from their starting side making their NRL debuts, the home side lacked the polish and composure required to grind out a win. As a result, Wentworthville were forced to play catch-up footy and failed to lead for the entire match.
North Sydney toppled Wentworthville on the scoreboard in the first half, going into the break with a 24-point lead. However, the Magpies looked promising in attack, especially in the early exchanges. Ryan Morgan asked questions of the Bears’ edge defence whilst Peni Terepo laid a good foundation for his halves with a number of strong carries.
Poor ball security by the hosts invited the Bears into the game. The visitors opened the scoring in the 12th minute through Dane Chang, after a Wentworthville drop-ball placed North Sydney in good field position.
They went back-to-back just eight minutes later through Wests Tigers recruit, Setefano Taukafa, who displayed outstanding strength to reach out and score a solo effort.
A terrific line break by Taukafa from the ensuing set allowed the Bears to play off the back of a quick play the ball. As a result, Jesse Roberts crossed for the Bears’ third try of the day by simply putting the ball through the hands.
Despite conceding another try five minutes before the break, Wentworthville did not look flustered as Luke Kelly and Ryan Matterson combined to build pressure on North Sydney’s line. The Magpies had six consecutive sets in attacking field position, yet still could not manage to crack the North Sydney’s defence, as the Bears took a 24-0 lead into the break.
Both teams started the second half scrappy but the Magpies finally took advantage of consecutive penalties, opening their scoring in the 48th minute through a barge-over try to Pauli Pauli. Luke Kelly failed to convert the try from the sideline, leaving the score at 24-4.
Wentworthville grew in confidence and although they were guilty of forcing the pass at times, key men like Pauli were causing concerns for the Bears on the edges.
The Magpies capitalised on built-up pressure in the 65th minute, this time through Ben Crooks, who dove over in the north-eastern corner. Kelly converted the try from the sideline, which closed the Bears’ lead to 14 points.
Despite a home side comeback on the cards, Setefano Taukafa stood solid at the back for the Bears through good kick returns and last-ditch defensive efforts.
A Vai Toutai break however resulted in a try to his fellow winger, Bureta Faraimo in the 71st minute. Luke Kelly added the two points, which saw Wentworthville trail by only eight points with under nine minutes remaining.
North Sydney proved resilient though, through aggressive defence and was later rewarded right on full time by a Scott Sorensen four-pointer. The backrower was given enough space to use late footwork close to the line. Nikko Roberts continued his perfect day with the boot, leaving the final score at 30-16 to the Bears.
Both sides will play away from home next week as the Bears travel to Carrington Park, Bathurst to take on the Panthers, while Wentworthville match up against the Tigers at Leichardt Oval who are coming off a round-one victory over Newtown.
North Sydney Bears 30 (Dane Chang, Setefano Taukafa, Brad Wall, Scott Sorenson, Jesse Roberts tries; Nikko Roberts 5 goals) def. Wentworthville Magpies 16 (Bureta Faraimo, Pauli Pauli, Ben Crooks tries; Luke Kelly 2 goals)