A massive crowd turned out at Henson Park for the replay of last years semi final between Newtown and North Sydney. Matt King made his long-awaited return from a broken arm to help the Bears to a 24-12 win.


King didnt have to wait long to get involved when Darren Nichols kicked cross-field for the centre, but King couldnt grab the ball cleanly as the ball went dead in-goal.


King was in the action again minutes later as he burst onto a short ball from Luke Keary but was held up just short of the line. Despite North Sydneys early dominance, it was Newtown who posted first points of the afternoon.


Matt Mundine couldnt have placed his cross-field kick any better to winger Paul Rokolati, as it flew over the defender, Greg Waddells head and into Rokolatis hands to score the try. Chris Taripo couldnt convert from the sideline but Newtown hit the lead at 4-0.


North Sydney hit straight back after receiving a penalty and crossed over in the corner after a sweeping passing movement down the right side. Justin Hunt threw a long ball to Matt King, who showed quick hands with a no-look pass that created space for Greg Waddell to race over in the corner. Apisai Koroisau slotted the conversion from the sideline to give the Bears a 6-4 lead.


They were almost in again through Josh Starling but George Burgess was ruled to have knocked on in the build-up. Newtown made North Sydney pay for their missed opportunity when they hit the lead again, on the back of another accurate kick.


Ryley Jacks kick for the corner was met by a flying Michael Oldfield, who outleapt Justin Hunt for the ball. Taripo again missed the conversion but Newtown was back in the lead at 8-6 with just under 15 minutes remaining in the first half.


Both teams had chances to score late in the first half, Chris Centrone was denied a try when the ref pulled him up for double movement but Centrone denied Michael Oldfield another try when he defused Nafe Seluinis dangerous kick. The teams went into the break with Newtown clinging to a slender lead at 8-6.


The Bears came out strongly in the second half and on the back of big hitups from Thomas Burgess and Daniel Fepuleai, Darren Nicholls crossed the tryline after shaping to pass but ran through the defenders, who were on the back foot. Justin Hunt extended the lead to 12-8 with a conversion next to the posts.


The Bears continued their impressive form after the interval when Luke Keary took the line on and gave it to his fullback to score with thirty minutes remaining. Keary showed tremendous footwork after he tore through the Newtown defenders and got an offload to Justin Hunt who was too quick for the Jets players. Hunt converted his own try to give the Bears an 18-8 lead.


Paul Rokolati looked to have scored his second but was denied by the touch judge for stepping on the sideline on his way to the corner. The Bears were guilty of costly errors as well, as they wasted two glorious chances to finish off the Jets.


The customary "8,972 fans" at Henson Park were in for a close finish when Usaia OSullivan scored a try on the back of another great kick from Ryley Jacks. The halfback placed his cross-field kick to perfection as Rokolati tapped the ball back to his centre who scored, much to the delight of the home fans. Taripo again missed the conversion but the Jets looked to be back in the game at 12-18.


Any hopes of a repeat of last year's semi final which was decided in extra time were killed off when the Bears got a repeat set in the Jets' half after a chargedown from Luke Keary's attempted drop goal flew into the hands of Matt King. A run-around play involving Koroisau and Josh Starling created space and Keary gave a long ball to Chris Centrone who showed great footwork and acceleration to beat three defenders to the tryline. Hunt nailed the conversion and the Bears took out the first leg of the Frank Hyde Shield 24-12.


Bears coach Wayne Lambkin admitted there was plenty of room for improvement after the match.


I thought we had their measure but just couldnt nail them," Coach Lambkin said.


"We played a lot better in the second half and Im confident that if we can put two good halves of footy together we can beat most teams.


The Bears will head South next weekend looking to continue their solid start to the season as they take on the Illawarra Cutters.


North Sydney Bears 24 (Chris Centrone, Darren Nicholls, Greg Waddell, Justin Hunt tries; Justin Hunt 3, Apisai Koroisau goals)


defeated


Newtown Jets 12 (Usaia OSullivan, Michael Oldfield, Paul Rokolati tries)