The North Sydney Bears have held off a valiant Wentworthville Magpies side 32-24 in a fiery contest at Ringrose Park on Saturday afternoon.
Halfback Eli Levido put in a classy performance, having a hand in a host of the Bears tries, with centre Robert Jennings bagging two of his own and putting in a great individual performance. Cheyne Whitelaw provided strong impact off the bench with a try right on full-time, while Magpies players Honeti Tuha and Cameron King were also strong in a losing side.
There was some physical defence from both sides in the early exchanges, but it only took five minutes for the Bears to strike with Braidon Burns scoring after a brilliant break from Robert Jennings.
It didn’t take long for the Magpies to return serve, after back-to-to-back penalties gave them great field position and allowed for Telepi Taningoa to barge his way over to score. Jamal Fogarty converted from the sideline and it was 6-all after 10 minutes.
It was a brutal opening 15 minutes of the game as late inclusion Angus Chritchon showed his worth in defence, but the Bears couldn’t seem to complete their sets with some early handling errors.
The Bears were on the back foot after an array of costly mistakes, and David Gover reaped the rewards as he broke through some flimsy defence to score right underneath the posts.
An amount of pressure was heaping on the Bears after they conceded their second try, and were lucky not to let in a third after a costly error from the Magpies on their line.
A classy backline movement at the other end of the field saw Robert Jennings score in the left-hand corner, with Eli Levido unable to convert and the Bears trailing by two points just before the half hour mark.
Robert Jennings continued to threaten the Magpies defensive line with his blistering speed, with a short side play giving him enough space to offload to Burns who crossed for his second of the day.
The Bears had a golden opportunity to score again late in the first half, however some committed goal-line defence from the Magpies was enough to hold on. The brutal opening half came to an end soon after, with the Bears holding on to a slight 16-12 advantage.
The start to the second half was fiercely fought as both teams looked to stamp their authority in a feisty contest, but it was the Bears who broke through with Cameron Murray bustling off a defender to score his team's fourth of the afternoon.
A schoolboy error from the Magpies gifted North Sydney the perfect opportunity to take a further stranglehold in the contest, and It wasn’t long before Jennings pounced on a perfectly weighted grubber from halfback Eli Levido, which saw the score quickly extended to two converted tries.
Moments later, a brilliant offload from Cameron Murray allowed Burns to streak away to an eventual one-on-one with Honeti Tuha, with the Magpies fullback doing well to hold him out. Tuha gave away a penalty for having a hand in the ruck, which saw Levido take full advatange and add another two points the scoreline. The score as set at 26-12 with just over a quarter of an hour to go.
The Magpies were throwing everything at the Bears with some threatening raids on the opposition goal line, but the Bears held their own with some gutsy goal line defence.
Despite their efforts, five consecutive sets were enough to break the Bears brick-wall defence, with Cameron King scoring to the left of the uprights with just under 10 minutes to play.
The Magpies continued to show their resilience in the closing stages of the game, with Honeti Tuha breaking away and eventually offloading to Bureta Faraimo to score in the left-hand corner. Fogarty brilliantly converted and the score was 26-24 with just two minutes to play.
Some quick thinking from Cheyne Whitelaw saw him barge over the line right on full-time, with the Bears holding out a courageous Magpies outfit 32-24.