In their first hit-out of the year, and on their 110th birthday, the North Sydney Bears drew 12-12 with Wentworthville Magpies at Ringrose Park.
While the Intrust Super Premiership side heavily featured plenty of young up and coming talent, their opponents opted to field a side filled with NRL experience. Being a trial match, the game was played in quarters to give every player a chance to showcase their skills.
The trial match also marked the return of halfback Connor Tracey, who played his first match in three seasons after suffering back-to-back ACL tears.
While the match began with errors and wayward passes, typical of a pre-season hit-out, both sides played with plenty of intensity, particularly in the opening stages. The defensive effort from the Bears was led by back rower Dean Britt, who was a standout early on, producing some big hits.
The Magpies pressed the Bears line early and force a repeat set, however on the next set the boys in red and black showed defensive toughness by bundling their opponents into touch through Braidon Burns and Mawene Hiroti.
Norths would be the first to break the deadlock through their winger Hiroti, who scored in the corner after a slick backline move, initiated by Tracey. The try was converted from the sideline by fullback Jesse Arthars to give the Bears a 6-0 lead.
Soon after however, the Bears conceded an error inside their own 10 metre line, which allowed their opponents to swoop and score through acting half Reed Mahoney. After converting his own try, the scores sat at 6-6 after half an hour.
The rest of the half would result in plenty of handling errors from both sides, with momentum continuing to sway back and forth. Bears front rower Sam Johnstone suffered a head knock but was able to leave the field on his own accord.
While Norths were forced to defend the last three sets on their own line, they were able to keep the scores to 6-6 at the break.
The second half was also defensively centred but once again Hiroti was the first to give his side an advantage, breaking the line off the back of another fine backline move. While he wasn’t able to touch down, the play resulted in a Wentworthville sin bin.
The final quarter started with Wentworthville dropping the ball off the kickoff, however the Bears failed to capitalise. Just a few minutes later, Norths conceded a try off a ruck penalty, with the Magpies taking the lead through Josh Cullin-Minhinnick, with Kauri Appouri kicking the conversion to give them a 12-6 lead with under 15 minutes to play.
Although the home side kept control of the match for the majority of the final quarter, the Bears’ strong defence kept them in the match, and their persistence was rewarded with a last-minute try to Amaruki Veamatahau.
Arthars provided the cutout pass for his winger to touch down, and again nailed the conversion from the sideline. Back rowers Siosifa Talakai and Lucky Ta’avale played strongly throughout the match, while Arthars was solid throughout with his safe hands and high involvement in both attack and defence.
Halfback Tracey rewarded himself with some much-deserved chocolate after a three year break, after pledging not to eat any until he made a successful return to the field.
North Sydney Bears 12
(Mawene Hiroti, Amaruki Veamatahau tries; Jesse Arthars 2 goals)
Wentworthville Magpies 12
(Reed Mahoney, Josh Cullin-Minhinnick tries; Reed Mahoney, Kauri Appouri goals)