North Sydney have extended their undefeated run in 2017 to four matches, after accounting for fellow competition front-runners by 12-4 in a fiery clash at Aubrey Keech Reserve.
While Mounties were aided by the late addition of former Queensland State of Origin representative, Dave Taylor, it would be the Bears who would fire, bringing an end to the home side’s impressive start to 2017.
The two tries to one effort from Norths would not be without controversy however, with tempers flaring in the dying moments of the clash — Bears hooker, Brad Deitz being sin-binned for a professional foul with four minutes in the match remaining, leaving the eventual victors a man down to finish the game.
Ill-discipline would would feature throughout the match, and the opening exchanges were no exception. Inside the first four minutes Mounties got multiple early scoring opportunities inside the Bears 20 metre line, but despite the momentum, Norths were able to repel the attacking raids with strong defence.
The Bears would get their own string of opportunities though when halfback, Eli Levido, forced a repeat-set via a well-weighted grubber-kick, setting up a number of scoring opportunities for his side that would apply pressure to the home team.
With 15 minutes in the half gone, Mounties kicked a crucial forty-twenty through Jordan Turner that would see the home-side park themselves firmly inside the Bears side of half-way. Two tackles later, Dominic Reardon would be the beneficiary when he steamed onto a long Turner cut-out pass to score in the corner, to make the score 4-0.
Norths got themselves on the board at the 22 minute mark after a penalty to the visitors inside the 10 metres eventually resulted in Levido throwing a long ball out to winger, Dane Nielsen, who touched down in the corner to equalise. Levido’s conversion attempt was waved away, leaving the score at four apiece.
Mounties looked to hit-back moments later when Taylor hit a short-ball at speed close to the line, but while the ‘Coal Train’ looked certain to score, poor handling would rob him of a four-pointer mere inches from the line.
With 13 minutes left in the first half, Levido kicked a booming forty-twenty that would go out just metres from the try-line to again place the North-siders in prime attacking position. But yet another penalty would halt the momentum of the match, prompting referee Chris Trenemen to warn both sides.
Norths would opt to take the shot at goal, with Levido booting his side ahead to make the score 6-4 going into the sheds.
On the resumption, Norths applied the blow-torch to the Mounties defence, with wave after wave of attack raining down on the home-side’s own line. After multiple patient attempts, Norths would finally break through when a slick back-line movement resulted in Ed Murphy crossing out wide. Levido’s conversion attempt was again waved away, leaving the Bears in control at 10-4.
With Norths again looking dangerous on the Mounties line, Norths were awarded a penalty after Cheyne Whitelaw was hit high by Makahesi Makatoa. Norths seized the chance to boot themselves two points further ahead, with Levido slotting the goal from right in front to make it 12-4 with 20 minutes remaining.
The Bears continued to gather momentum by forcing a number of morale-boosting errors late in the match, much to the appreciation of the vocal Bears faithful who made the trip to Aubrey Keech for the Round 4 clash.
With seven minutes remaining, Bears hooker, Deitz was collected by a swinging arm, prompting a penalty that would see Norths have another roll of the dice close to the home-side’s line that would again prove fruitless.
Mounties would dominate the closing stages of the match following the sin-binning of Deitz, but it would be the North Sydney side that would take home the competition points.
North Sydney Bears 12 (D Nielsen, E Murphy tries; E Levido 2 goals) def Mounties 4 (D Reardon try)