Highlights: Bears v Cutters (Rd 20)
The North Sydney Bears secured a crucial 44-32 victory over the Illawarra Cutters, bringing them closer to the top eight.
Cody Walker was exceptional for the Bears, and was heavily assisted by his halves-partner Darren Nicholls and hooker Paul Carter.
The 14-try affair saw Craig Garvey and Peni Botiki score two tries each for the gallant Cutters, however it was not enough to match the attacking prowess of the Bears.
The Cutters went on the attack in the opening stages of the match, but the Bears early goal line defence was superb.
Off the back of this defensive effort, the Bears marched up field and scored through Zane Musgrove with some clever work out of dummy half by Carter.
Garvey hit back for the Cutters five minutes later when he forced his way over from dummy half to lock up the scores at six all.
The Bears thought they regained the lead when Walker put a perfect kick in for Latrell Schaumkel to catch and plant the ball down, but he put his foot in touch in the act of scoring.
The Bears wouldn’t have to wait long to cross as Walker scored a try just three minutes later after winning the race to a long-range kick and plant the ball down.
The Cutters dominated the following ten minutes, with Fraser Alcock being held up and Adam Clune building pressure through forced dropouts.
Garvey eventually scored his second try in the 28th minute, again out of dummy half.
In the final four minutes of the half, the Bears scored two quick pivotal tries for a valuable halftime lead.
The first was a Nathan Brown try off a Nicholls pass, and the second was a Schaumkel try coming after the siren, for a 22-12 halftime score.
A bit of magic from the Bears halves in the opening minute of the second half led to a Nicholls try, increasing their lead to 28-12.
Cutters hit back in the 51st minute after Blake Wallace put a grubber in for Junior Vaivai who successfully got the ball down.
The deficit was decreased to eight after Clune threw a lovely ball to Botiki, who powered through the defence to score his first try.
A Walker chip to Schaumkel in the 61st minute led to an amazing try, after the winger dangerously tiptoed down the sideline before evading various defenders to extend their lead to 34-20.
Walker used his speed and agility to score a great try from dummy half in the 65th minute, before Carter used raw power to score from the same position just three minutes later for a commanding 44-20 lead with 12 minutes remaining.
The Cutters scored two consolation tries through Luke Page and Botiki, for a final 44-32 score line.
It was an extremely high-scoring affair, but the Walker-inspired Bears were certainly deserved winners in the entertaining clash.
The result brings the Bears and Cutters level with 20 competition points, to sit towards the fringe of the top eight – placing great importance on the final five rounds.
The Bears will face the Canterbury Bulldogs at Leichhardt Oval next week, while the Cutters will host the Penrith Panthers at WIN Stadium.
North Sydney Bears 44 (L Schaumkel 2, C Walker 2, N Brown, P Carter, Z Musgrove, D Nicholls tries; Nicholls 6 goals) bt Illawarra Cutters 32 (C Garvey 2, P Botiki 2, J Vaivai, L Page tries; B Wallace 4 goals)