The North Sydney Bears have kept in touch with the Intrust Super Premiership top eight with a 30-10 win over a disappointing Newcastle Knights side at North Sydney Oval.
With former Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues hooker Robbie Farah again playing strongly, the Bears kept the Knights scoreless in the second half – despite Newcastle having a feast of possession and an 8-2 penalty count in their favour in the second stanza.
Match: Bears v Knights
Round 8 -
Venue: North Sydney Oval
Newcastle started the game well and dominated early possession – culminating in experienced centre Pat Mata'utia opening the scoring in the 13th minute. Mata'utia burst through four Bears defenders from close range following a North Sydney turnover, with Daniel Levi converting to give the visitors a 6-0 lead.
Newcastle then returned the favour with a turnover of their own six minutes later, which ended in Bears prop Sam Johnstone crashing over from a short pass from halfback Dean Hawkins. Hawkins added the extras to level scores.
Farah soon tried a deft stab kick in behind the Newcastle defence late in the tackle count – only to see Newcastle five-eighth Daniel Peck snaffle the intercept and dash 70 metres to score.
Levi missed the conversion, but the Knights led 10-6 – which would be the last time Newcastle led during the game. The Bears made the most of Knights turnovers and ill-discipline in the rest of the first half.
Off the back of a penalty, Bears centre Campbell Graham plucked a pin-point Connor Tracey cross kick out of the sky to level scores at 10 points apiece.
Things got worse for the Knights when winger Tom Cronan coughed up an error running the ball out of trouble 10 minutes from half-time.
North Sydney made the most of the scrum set when Hawkins put second-rower Hymel Hunt into a half gap, before Hunt popped a superb pass for fullback Viliame Kaveinga to score a well-worked try in the corner.
Hawkins converted from touch to give the Bears a 16-10 lead.
Newcastle were then penalised in the last minute of the first half in front of their own posts for not playing the ball correctly – giving Hawkins a gift penalty goal as the half-time siren sounded and extending the Bears' lead to eight points at the break.
Any chance of a Newcastle comeback was dashed when fullback Brent Naden blew a golden opportunity in the visitors' first attack of the second half, when he took the tackle and knocked on with an overlap on his outside.
From the scrum, Hawkins sent winger Mawene Hiroti away on an 80-metre dash down the left touch line to score a brilliant counter-attacking try.
North Sydney then made sure of the two competition points when a short ball from Farah sent fellow hooker Billy Brittain over next to the uprights. With Hawkins' conversion, it would close out the 30-10 scoreline.
Newcastle dominated possession for long periods in the final 20 minutes on the back of the overwhelming second-half penalty count.
However, the Bears comfortably defended the indifferent attack the Knights threw at them, and had a try disallowed in the last 10 minutes themselves after Graham was denied due to a forward pass.
North Sydney closed out the win comfortably enough for Farah to be given an 'early mark' by Bears coach Shane Millard with five minutes to play.
The Bears take their confidence from tonight's win against the Newtown Jets in the first Frank Hyde Shield match for 2018 at Henson Park next Saturday, while Newcastle will try to turn around their form slump against the Wyong Roos in the first M1 local derby for the season at Morry Breen Oval.
North Sydney Bears 30 (S Johnstone, C Graham, V Kaveinga, M Hiroti, B Brittain tries; D Hawkins 5 goals) def Newcastle Knights 10 (P Mata'utia, D Peck tries; D Levi goal)