North Sydney Bears and Mounties could not be separated for the second time this season, battling out a 34-all entertaining affair.
Mounties scored two tries in a dramatic final four minutes, as Mitch Cornish dramatically leveled the scores on the fulltime buzzer with an outstanding clutch conversion from out wide.
Cornish and Cody Walker stood out for their respective teams in a game that had twelve tries, a sin binning, a Latrell Schaumkel hat trick, and a thrilling Mounties comeback in the dying minutes as the Bears were understandably left fuming with the officials after the match.
This match marked the return of Kirisome Auva’a, who had a major contribution, scoring one try and setting up another two.
Cornish threw a great pass for Gus Aiga to score the first try of the afternoon, and were immediately gifted field position when the following kickoff went out on the full.
The Bears withheld the extra pressure and hooker Cameron McInnes put them on the front foot shortly with an astute 40/20 from dummy half.
Schaumkel equalled the scores to 6-all on the following set after some great second-phase play fractured the Mounties defence as Walker threw an outstanding pass to the try scorer.
The Bears couldn’t field the kick off as Mounties took full advantage through Stewart Mills, who hit a hole after receiving a Cornish pass.
Mounties led 10-6 after 25 minutes and had been the dominant side but conceded 16 points before next touching the ball.
Auva’a put his stamp on the game when he made a powerful line-break and fended off a defender before unloading to Schaumkel to score his second try.
From the following set, Auva’a was in on the action again when he found some space down the left edge and provided a magical ball to Walker who was steaming through. Walker darted away and passed the ball to Schaumkel who completed his hat trick after just 29 minutes.
Darren Nicholls spun out of the defensive line and scored the Bears’ third consecutive try, which he converted himself to complete what was nothing less than a rampage for 22-10 halftime score.
Walker began the second half with a terrific effort. Walker kicked a fantastic 40/20 from deep inside the Bears’ 30 metre zone that resulted in him crossing for the try to extend the Bears’ lead to 26-10.
Mounties hit back in the 55th minute when Josh McCrone passed to Jeremy Hawkins, who strolled over to narrow the deficit to 26-16.
Immediately afterwards, Nicholls burst through a hole before Jeff Lynch was sin binned for holding him down too long in the tackle. Nicholls added a gift two points in front of the posts to increase their lead to 28-16.
Aiga scored in the right corner after a good passage of second-phase play for Mounties, before Auva’a hit straight back for the Bears after some outstanding work by Walker.
The score was 34-22 with five minutes remaining but the best attacking team in the VB NSW Cup never quit.
Chevi Ellis scored for the visitors courtesy of a McCrone kick as the officials curiously called time off after the try while Cornish took his conversion.
Cornish had the chance to lock up the scores from the sideline, however this time the officials didn’t call time off at any stage – which caused much frustration for the Bears.
Nevertheless, Cornish slotted the pressure conversion to cap off an outstanding individual performance, and to finish off one of the most exciting games of season 2015.
Both sides have a bye next week; Mounties will host the Newtown Jets in two weeks time at GIO Stadium, while the Bears will take on Wentworthville Magpies at North Sydney Oval.
North Sydney Bears 34 (L Schaumkel 3, C Walker, K Auva'a, D Nicholls tries; Nicholls 5 goals) drew with Mounties 34 (G Aiga 2, C Ellis, B Tupou, S Mills, J Hawkins tries; M Cornish 5 goals)