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The North Sydney Bears have come from 18 points down to record a famous 25-24 win in the dying seconds against the ladder-leading Western Suburbs Magpies on Old Boys’ Day at North Sydney Oval in Round 6 of the Intrust Super Premiership NSW competition.

The Bears were seemingly down and out after conceding an 18-point lead after just 30 minutes of play, but came bounding back into the contest through Viliami Kaveinga, Billy Brittain and Dean Hawkins to record a thrilling upset victory.

Magpies halfback Josh Drinkwater, one of the best on the park, opened the scoring for the visitors after 10 minutes, stepping past two defenders off his left foot close to the Bears’ line to drive over for a four-pointer. His conversion took the visitors’ lead to six.

The next set it was Drinkwater who once again stood up – an incisive run following an offload sending the halfback into open territory before setting up Tui Lolohea to score. Drinkwater’s second conversion inside a minute sent the Magpies to a 12-nil lead.

For the next 10 minutes or so the Bears had a number of opportunities but simply could hold onto the ball to think of conversing the opportunities.

In the 27th minute the Magpies took a decisive advantage, this time through the boot of Braden Robson. On the back of another Bears error, the Magpies marched downfield, for Robson to slip through a grubber to an enthusiastic Watson Heleta to score in the corner. Another Drinkwater conversion, from touch in windy conditions, stretched the advantage to 18.

The Magpies looked likely to stretch that lead further as Mahe Fonua streaked downfield but as he was caught he lost the ball – and the Bears made him pay – in a match-turning passage of play. On the ensuing set, the Bears marched downfield, and a strong Hymel Hunt charge had them just metres out from the tryling. A simple crash-over from big front-rower Rhys Kennedy opened their account.

Then their captain Billy Brittain crashed over from dummy-half after a strong run from Max Bailey, with Dean Hawkins’ conversion cutting the lead to just eight points at the break.

The Bears kept the momentum in the second half, a very similar play from Brittain on the Magpies’ line leading Ky Rodwell in jersey no.30 to crash over.

But it wasn’t until the Magpies crashed over in the 64th minute that the Bears’ spirit looked broken. From a standing start, a grubber kick into the in-goal area was claimed by Lucas Price and a try was awarded. Replays suggested the ball was never grounded, but the score remained and from there the home side never recovered.

But the Bears never, actually, said die, and after absorbing an onslaught their fullback and winger combined for a four-pointer started deep inside their half. Kaveinaga scooted from dummy half and sliced through, drawing the last line to send Mawene Hiroti over. Dean Hawkins’ third conversion of the afternoon cut the Magpies’ lead to just two points with 10 minutes remaining.

Hawkins made no mistake from a penalty in the 77th minute against Chris McQueen for an off-the-ball tackle on the Bears’ fullback to tie the game at 24.

Then, on the next set of six on the final tackle in the dying seconds of the match, Hawkins, just 19, did what all good halves do – slot a pressure field goal, with the game on the line, to give his team victory.

The diminutive no.7 was one of the best for the home side alongside Kaveinga and Brittain, while for the visitors Mahe Fonua, Drinkwater and McQueen proved constant threats.

Next week the Bears hosts Mounties at Central Coast Stadium while the Magpies face Newcastle at Campbelltown Stadium.

North Sydney Bears 25 (Rhys Kennedy, Billy Brittain, Ky Rodwell, Mawene Hiroti tries; Dean Hawkins 4 goals; field goal) def Western Suburbs Magpies 24 (Josh Drinkwater, Tui Lolohea, Watson Heleta, Lucas Price tries; Drinkwater 4 goals)

 Cover Image: David Napper

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