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North Sydney's Zach Dockar-Clay. Photo: Gregg Porteous

Foundation clubs the North Sydney Bears and the South Sydney Rabbitohs will meet in next Sunday’s (24 September) Grand Final of The Knock-On Effect NSW Cup after holding off a fast-finishing Warriors 28-24 in today’s Preliminary Final.

The western stand patrons at Leichhardt Oval were on their feet when the full-time hooter sounded after a gutsy effort by coach Jason Taylor’s men.

Three unanswered tries before half-time put the Bears in a sound position (18-0).

But the Warriors piled on the points in the second setting up a grandstand finish when centre Ali Leiataua scored their fourth try with three minutes left on the clock.

The Rabbitohs, who beat the Bears 30-24 in last week’s Major Semi-final, are waiting for next Sunday’s 2023 showdown at CommBank Stadium.

Preliminary final: North Sydney 28 def Warriors 24

The afternoon started badly for North Sydney after losing their hooker Jake Turpin for the match with an eye cut in just the second minute.

Warriors prop Zyon Maiu’u was placed on report for high contact.

“They know that it’s a team and not an individual that wins these games,” Bears coach Jason Taylor said of losing such a key player so early.

“We tackled those big boys all day. We turned them away from our line so many times – more than we should have had to.

Bears two-time try scorer Jesse Marschke. Photo: Bryden Sharp
Bears two-time try scorer Jesse Marschke. Photo: Bryden Sharp

“We did allow them down there too many times but we just kept turning them away.

“That’s what won the game for us.”

After North Sydney’s hat-trick hero from last week Allan Fitzgibbon put his foot into touch on the way to the corner post in the fifth minute, the Bears second attempt to post points was more successful.

Skipper Zach Dockar-Clay slipped a short pass to his No.6 Jesse Marschke, who made a dashing run fending off defenders to score in the seventh minute.

Warriors players James Gavet and Tom Ale were held up over the line as the Auckland-based side hunted for the equaliser.

But then Bears centre Toa Mata‘afa ran over the top of his opposite number Brayden Wiliame for North Sydney’s second try to make it 12-0 after Ben Stevanovic converted from the eastern sideline.

The Bears were on a roll and interchange forward Ben Talty crashed over near the posts for an 18-0 lead five minutes before the break.

That remained the half-time score with players receiving a standing ovation as they headed to the sheds.

The Warriors needed to score first early in the second half and they did – twice.

Fullback Setu Tu crossed one play off the ruck, then captain Kalani Going barged over from dummy half.

Halfback Ronald Volkman converted both tries and the Warriors were back in the fight 18-12 after 50 minutes.

Warriors centre Ali Leiataua. Photo: Bryden Sharp
Warriors centre Ali Leiataua. Photo: Bryden Sharp

Another decisive Dockar-Clay run helped Marschke zig-zag his way to the line again for his second try (24-12).

Fitzgibbon finally got on the scoreboard after a couple of darting runs down the touchline and the Bears extended their lead to 28-12 with 20 minutes still to play.

Two more late tries – to Bunty Afoa (71st minute) and Leiataua (77th) – made it an intense finish.

But the Bears underlined their Minor Premiers status by defending stoutly.

North Sydney 28 (Jesse Marschke 2, Toa Mata’afa, Allan Fitzgibbon, Ben Talty tries; Ben Stevanovic 4 goals) def Warriors 24 (Setu Tu, Kalani Going, Bunty Afoa, Ali Leiataua tries; Ronald Volkman 4 goals)

Click here for tickets to the NSWRL Grand Final Day.

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