The Bears fielded a strong team against Canterbury with Justin Hunt, Jason Clark, Dave Tyrell and Tom Burgess all wearing the black and red in the 38-16 victory over the Bulldogs.
Canterbury fullback Gerard McCallum didnt last long after a late hit forced him off the field, with Nathan Massey deputising in his absence. The Bulldogs werent deterred by the early reshuffle as Tim Lafai drew three defenders and threw a one handed offload to Brett Lane, who crossed in the corner for the opening try. Halfback Trent Hodkinson missed the conversion and the score stayed at 4-0.
Josh Starlings chargedown handed Bears possession inside Bulldogs half, after a good defensive set. Bears halfback Luke Kearys great high kick, in between two Bulldogs defenders, bounced perfectly for new centre Greg Waddell, who stepped inside Massey to post the first points for the Bears season. Apisai Koroisau, graduating from the Rabbitohs under 20s, missed the conversion and the scores remained level.
The Bears ran in two tries in two minutes after the Bulldogs gave away a penalty. Keary went down the short side from dummy half and gave the ball to hooker Koroisau who cut out two players with a bullet pass to Chris Centrone, who did well near the sideline to spin out of Masseys tackle and score. Koroisau could not convert and the score stayed at 8-4 to the Bears.
Tim Lafai looked impossible to tackle after he broke six tackles in a 40 metre run, before being held up inches short of the line. The Bulldogs had the visitors on the back foot and had a massive overlap to the right, which Hodkinson exploited with a pinpoint kick hitting winger Brett Lane on the chest, but Lane somehow fumbled with no-one around him as he tried to plant the ball down.
The Bears were again on the attack inside the Bulldogs half after a Hodkinson dropped ball from a scrum feed. Koroisau was once more in the action as he elected to pass on the last tackle to Josh Starling, who looked to be held up by five defenders, but got an arm free to score between the posts. Koroisau made no mistake with the conversion and extended the lead to 14-4.
However, the Bulldogs hit back in the final minutes of the first half. Hodkinson sent centre Ed Murphy through a gap and drew the fullback but Starling dragged down his support player, Josh Gill. Hodkinson was looking dangerous as his pass put Lachlan Burr in a hole and the backrower stretched out to score. Hodkinsons conversion made it 10-14 going into halftime.
The Bears came out firing in the second half and regained the advantage through a smart set play. Koroisau passed to Keary who gave a quick inside ball to a flying Justin Hunt who busted the defense down the middle of the park. Hunt drew the fullback and Luke Keary backed up well and a strong fend saw the halfback on his way to the tryline.
Keary again showed his speed and agility minutes later, as he stepped his way through three Canterbury defenders to score back-to-back tries. Koroisaus third conversion in a row shot the Bears out to a 26-10 lead.
The Bears were looking confident as they attacked the Bulldogs, they threw the ball out to the right before shifting the ball sideline-to-sideline, which created an overlap for Chris Centrone to score his second of the afternoon. Koroisau slotted the conversion from the touchline to make it 32-10 with just over 15 minutes left in the game.
Kearys no-look inside ball had Bears fans cheering as he found Hunt, who crossed over the line untouched. Koroisaus conversion extended the lead to 38-10 with five minutes remaining.
The Bulldogs scored a late consolation try after a bust from impressive backrower, Lachlan Burr. Burrs break and offload led to five-eighth Joel Romelos try to end the game. Trent Hodkinson converted to make the final score 38-16 to the North Sydney Bears.
Coach Wayne Lambkin was happy with his sides first hit out of the season.
We talked at halftime about keeping them out down the middle, keeping in control and the breaks will come eventually and thats what happened straight after halftime, which was really pleasing," Lambkin said.
"Luke Keary really showed his ability in the second half and what he is capable of, Justin Hunt was good at the back, Starlings first half was outstanding and Api (Apisai Koroisau) playing 80 minutes in the heat, first game out of the under 20s, so he was good as well.
North Sydney Bears 38 (Chris Centrone 2, Luke Keary 2, Greg Waddell, Josh Starling, Justin Hunt tries; Apisai Koroisau 5 goals)
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 16 (Brett Lane, Joel Romelo, Lachlan Burr tries; Trent Hodkinson 2 goals)