The North Sydney Bears returned to their best Intrust Super Premiership NSW form with an upset 22-6 win over competition leaders the Wyong Roos at Morry Breen Oval this afternoon.
In easily their best performance in recent weeks, the Bears brought to an end Wyong’s unbeaten run of 12 matches stretching back to Round 4 to indicate that the premiership is not yet a foregone conclusion.
It appeared to be business as usual for the Roos in the early exchanges when lock Justin Toomey-White strolled through poor Norths goal-line defence to score the opening try in the fifth minute. Josh Mantellato converted to give Wyong a 6-0 lead.
A Mantellato dropped bomb in the 15th minute gave the visitors great field position from the scrum. The Bears took full advantage when, at the end of the set from the scrum, makeshift hooker Tom Freebairn crashed over under the posts. Eli Levido converted to level scores at 6-6.
The Bears were able to grind their way on top as the arm wrestle continued through the last 20 minutes of the first half – and were rewarded four minutes from half-time when half Luke Kelly chip kicked over the top of the static Roos defence to regather and send winger Tautalatasi Tasi away to score behind the posts.
Levido converted to give the Bears a deserved 12-6 lead at the break.
A deft kicking game by Kelly and five-eighth Adam Doueihi kept the Roos pinned at their own end at the start of the second half, eventually conceding a 51st minute penalty for a leg pull at the ruck that Levido duly converted to extend the Bears’ lead to 14-6.
As the second half wore on, the Roos’ usually crisp passing and running game was overshadowed by the Bears’ greater line speed and intensity.
This led to Wyong giving away three successive penalties midway through the second half, before having to defend for a fourth successive set when Roos’ prop Eloni Vunakece was sin-binned by referee Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski for a late tackle on Kelly on the report of Touch Judge Mark Bohan.
The extra set was too much for the 12-man Wyong defence to cope with, with Norths spreading the play to the left for backrower Jack Gosiewski to score what turned out to be the match-winning try. Levido made no mistake to extend the Bears’ lead to 20-6.
Wyong had a number of sets on attack to attempt a comeback as Vunakece came back from the bin in the final 10 minutes, but they came to no avail.
Frustrations boiled over in the closing stages which led to Bears prop Dean Britt sin-binned for a professional foul after a midfield scuffle with three minutes left, before Levido landed one last penalty goal in the final minute to close out a sweet Bears’ victory.
Wyong still lead the competition by a clear six points despite enduring their first defeat since March 25, and will enjoy another bye next week before looking to make amends against Mounties back at Morry Breen Oval on 22 July.
Norths will be looking to build on today’s morale boosting win when they play Mounties in a mouth watering clash at North Sydney Oval next Sunday.
North Sydney Bears 22 (T Freebairn, T Tasi, J Gosiewski tries; E Levido 5 goals) def Wyong Roos 6 (J Toomey-White try; J Mantellato goal)