Levido Penalty Goal Gets Bears Home
The North Sydney Bears have snuck home 18-16 over the Newcastle Knights in a tense showdown at North Sydney Oval.
Warm sunshine and a light breeze greeted both sides as the home side celebrated Old Boys' day with a number of former players in attendance.
The Bears enjoyed a 16-4 lead at the break but the Knights dominated much of the second half to draw level late on, before an Eli Levido penalty goal in the 80th minute sealed the game.
The teams got through their opening sets error-free in a game of huge importance in the context of their respective seasons.
The Bears had an early sniff at the Knights' line but some solid defence forced centre Ed Murphy over the touchline, and the visitors had an early chance of their own minutes later.
A risky offload came unstuck for the Bears in the eighth minute and then a penalty compounded their woes and the Knights went on the attack from close range.
Yet another penalty saw the visitors camped on the Bears line but the home side were good enough to keep the Knights out.
In the 13th minute a sweeping backline play found the Knights short down their right edge but Bears winger Tuatalatasi Tasi dropped the final pass with the tryline beckoning, but just two minutes later, they took the lead through centre Campbell Graham.
The try was brilliantly converted by Levido, and the home side led 6-0.
The Knights hit back when they found an unmarked Tom Hughes out wide and the winger sprinted to the corner and went over for a well-worked try.
The try wasn't converted and the home side led 6-4 midway through the first half.
Tasi made up for his earlier blunder on the half hour mark, showing great evasion to get on the outside of his man and reach out to plant the ball down in the corner. Levido couldn't add the extras and the Bears led 10-4.
The home side extended their lead with a try to Brett Greinke under the posts, converted by Levido to make it 16-4 with just five minutes left in the half.
The Bears made their intentions known early in the second half when a neat chip to the corner was followed up by some bruising defence which forced the Knights over the touchline, much to the pleasure of the parochial home crowd occupying the Mollie Dive stand.
However the Knights overcame that setback and worked their way downfield to post their second try, Pat Mata'utia brushing off the defence to go over.
Nicholas Meaney added the extras to make it 16-10 after 48 minutes of play.
The Knights turned the tide of the game in the 54th minute when they forced a Bears error on halfway and winger Thomas Cronin swooped on the loose ball and raced away to score beside the posts.
Meaney added the extras to tie the game up at 16-all.
A crucial error by the Bears with less than 20 minutes remaining in the match gifted the Knights a full set just 10 metres out from the line and with the sun setting behind the O'Reilly stand, they went on the attack.
After receiving a penalty the Knights opted not to go for the two, but couldn't come up with a try from the ensuing set, the Bears holding on strongly in defence.
The Bears received a penalty of their own shortly after and gladly took a shot at goal;
Levido stepping up but his kick was waved away, leaving the two teams at 16 apiece with time fast running out.
The Bears breathed a sigh of a relief after a Knights field goal attempt was charged down, only for the visitors to regather and enjoy a fresh set, however they dropped the ball on the very first tackle.
Minutesater in a bizarre piece of play, the Knights tried to force a pass coming out of their own end and the Bears grabbed it, and raced towards the line, but the ball came free, ruled to be a strip, much to the joy of the home crowd.
Levido lined up the kick from just to the right of the uprights and this time made no mistake to edge the Bears home 18-16.
North Sydney Bears 18 (T Tasi, C Graham, B Greinke tries; E Levido 3 goals) def Newcastle Knights 16 (T Hughes, P Mata'utia, T Cronan tries; N Meaney 2 goals)