North Sydney Bears put a nightmare first half behind them to defeat Newcastle Knights 28-12 at Kurri Kurri Sports Ground.
Blistering hot conditions made life difficult for both teams, but it was a happy homecoming of sorts for Eli Levido who played all his junior footy up the road at Cessnock.
It was the Bears who created the first chance with a nice cross kick, which hit the posts. Luckily for the Knights they had numbers back in time.
Jake Mamo opened the scoring running onto a nice pass from Danny Kerr, after Kerr did a little show a go to create the try. Bryce Donavan had a difficult conversion into a strong breeze that picked up all of a sudden.
Newcastle found themselves in good field position shortly after the Bears kicked out on the full, but were unable to take advantage. North Sydney were defending well in the sweltering heat, but could not hold out for much longer.
Just after 20 minutes of play, Newcastle had their second try thanks to a nice back-line movement for Ken Tofilau to cross in the right side corner. Donavan could not convert on the opposite side and the score remained 8-0.
Although the score was well in favour of the Knights, Norths just needed some quality ball. A repeat six helped their cause, but they come up empty handed. Levido’s kicking game was asking questions of the Knights backs, but the Mamo and his teammates had all the answers.
The defence was brutal at times with Jacob Gagai putting a good hit on Norths front rower Jokatama Dokinavalu and Mao Uta showed he could match it with a ball and all special.
Two minutes out from half time Newcastle extended their lead with winger Tofilau crossing for his second try of the afternoon. Again the conversion was unsuccessful and the Knights lead 12-0.
The Knights almost had another from the restart with Bradie Smith creating a half chance but the ball was knocked on in the next play. There was no more action in the first half and the Knights went into the sheds leading 12-0.
The second half got underway and it was the Bears who began the better. Norths hooker Brad Dietz made a break but the Knights defence shut the support down. The Bears had opportunities camped inside the Knights 20 but came up empty handed on several occasions until Bernard Gregorius was on the end of a lovely flick pass from Ed Murphy. The Bears first try of the day came from plenty of ball but much deserved. Levido added the extras with a great kick from the right sideline to make the score 12-6.
The heat was becoming a factor for both sides and when North’s hooker Dietz was injured in a tackle it gave both sides a chance to catch their breath.
Just after an hour gone in the match North’s go their second try of the day with Levido placing a wobbly grubber kick into the ingoal and Michael Oldfield snatched the ball from the grasp of two Knights players to score next to the right upright. Levido added the extras to lock the score up at 12 all.
Norths then hit the lead almost instantly with Michael Oldfield making a break, shrugging off several defenders to run 40 metres to score next to the uprights. Levido made it three from three to give the Bears the lead 18-12 with 15 to go.
The Knights were out on their feet. It was a reversal of the first half with the Bears starving the Knights of possession.
The game was all over when Bears captain Ed Murphy used his strength to outmuscle the Knights defence to the try line. Another good conversion for Levido gave a Norths an unbeatable 24-12 lead.
Right on full time Murphy scored his second try of the game to cap off a great come from behind victory for North Sydney Bears, running out winners 28-12.