A host of young Roosters have proved their credentials for first-grade opportunities as the North Sydney Bears were victorious in their trial match at Seiffert Oval against the Canberra Raiders.
Match Highlights: Bears v Raiders (Trial)
Fullback Brad Abbey had a strong game, particularly when under pressure and with ball in hand, while Naufahu Whyte and Joseph Suaalii looked at home with impressive two-try performances.
With many of the side playing their first game in over a year against a Raiders squad filled to the brim with a number of experienced NRL campaigners, the young Roosters wearing red and black showed plenty of fight and class in their 26-18 victory.
A strong first set saw the Bears make their way well into Raiders territory, but it was their opponents who would hit back immediately with a grubber kick forcing North Sydney in-goal.
Despite the Raiders testing the Bears' defence, a well-timed tackle from Suaalii forced an error, with early pressure from the youngster seeing the ball go forward.
Although a high tackle would hand over another opportunity to place first points, the Bears defence was on song as they dragged Sebastian Kris into touch, who looked certain to dive over.
With the sides locked in a see-sawing contest, the Raiders eventually claimed first points with Cory Horsburgh crashing over under the sticks. With the try converted, the home side took a 6-nil lead with just over ten minutes played.
Offloads would continue to test the North Sydney defence, but the first of a number of successful catches under pressure from former Raider Abbey earned a seven-tackle set.
From there the Bears would reply, with a pinpoint kick from Ralph recovered by Whyte, with the backrower keeping the ball alive and offloading to Abbey, which then saw Suaalii over the line to make his second big impression of the match. With Ronald Volkman's conversion unsuccessful, the Bears trailed 4-6 with a quarter of the match played.
Taking inspiration from their opponents, the Bears would employ some second-phase play, as a left-side swing from the Bears which nearly saw winger Lani Graham-Taufa score, only for the ball to go to ground.
With confidence behind their backs, the Bears would continue to chance their arm in attack, with Ronald Volkman looking to emulate his dazzling chip and chase from the week before, only for the bounce of the ball to elude the fleet-footed five-eighth.
But the enterprising play would backfire, as a wayward pass saw the Bears concede a long-range try. With the conversion successful, the Raiders would extend their lead by eight. With fatigue setting in the last ten minutes of the half, both sides would trade errors heading into the sheds with the Bears trailing 4-12.
It was a dream start to the second half for the Bears, as defensive pressure continued to garner errors. Despite no points coming from the end of it, the platform for a strong second half was made.
Employing a number of strong counter-attacks - including a one-on-one strip from Ralph and a streaking run from winger Tom Carr to retrieve a loose pass - the finishing touches on the ends of sets from Norths saw possession cheaply handed over.
With their opponents looking to strike again through a forced drop-out, a scrappy start to the second half from the home side would invite the Bears back into the contest.
A penalty off a half-break from Suaalii would give the Bears a prime opportunity to score their second try, with Lussick and Ben Thomas combining as they did against the Wests Tigers which saw the bench forward crash over. Carr's conversion reduced the deficit to two points with just over 25 minutes left in the match.
The Bears would score back-to-back tries as Ralph staked his claim, bursting through the line with a dummy and run while finding Naufahu Whyte who finished off a classy try. Taking the lead for the first time, Carr's conversion saw the young Roosters 16-12 in front with a quarter left to go.
A confident Bears side would go over again as Suaalii crashed over for his brace, showing great strength to carry multiple defenders over the try line. Despite the conversion fading away, the Bears would hold an eight-point lead with just over ten minutes left.
With the sides trading errors in a scrappy sequence of play, the Raiders would hit back a few minutes later with a break through the middle of the field, closing their deficit to two points.
But it would be the Bears with the last laugh as a Josh Bergamin break set up Whyte to burst through to score his second with just minutes remaining.
North Sydney Bears 26 (Joseph Suaalii 2, Naufahu Whyte 2, Ben Thomas tries; Tom Carr 3 goals) def Canberra Raiders 18