The North Sydney Bears have gotten back in the winners’ circle in round 10, defeating the seventh-placed Newcastle Knights by 18-12 at North Sydney Oval – Nathan Merritt playing an integral role for the red and black’s.
Merritt crossed for a four-pointer and set one up for Curtis Johnston in a solid performance from fullback to help the Bears to their first victory since round one.
The sides traded blows in the opening exchanges with superb defence denying both teams on numerous occasions. A wayward kick by the Bears attacking the Newcastle line eventually allowed Joel Reddy to open the scoring, giving them an early 4-0 lead.
The Knights hit back though on the back of a huge weight of possession with Brenton Horwood diving over under the sticks to level the scores up with four minutes left in the first half. Josh Mantellato converted from in front to make it 6-4 in the visitos’ favour going into the sheds.
On the resumption, Nathan Merritt finished off a determined attacking play from the Bears to score out wide for the Bears to regain the lead at 8-6.
Merritt began to take control for the Bears when he injected himself from the back before throwing a long cut-out pass to Curtis Johnston to score in his 100th game for the Bears. Kurt Aldridge missed his third conversion attempt of the afternoon leaving the score at 12-6.
The Knights hit back straight away through Tyler Randall who scored adjacent to the sticks with 22 minutes in the match remaining. Mantellato slotted the conversion to equal the scores at 12 apiece.
With ten minutes left in the match and pressure mounting, the Bears mounted a promising attacking raid that saw a short-pass to Joe Picker send the forward over for a much-needed try. Kurt Aldridge knocked over his first conversion of the afternoon to make it 18-12 to get the Bears’ first victory since round one.
Bears 18 (Joel Reddy, Nathan Merritt, Curtis Johnston, Joe Picker tries; 1 goals)
Knights 12 (Brenton Horwood tries; Josh Mantellato 1 goals)