The North Sydney Bears went down to the Wyong Roos 18-16 in Round24 of the NSW Cup in a game that saw a scoreless second half thanks to some inspirational defensive efforts from both sides.
The Roos flew out of the blocks early to an 18-0 lead after just 15 minutes, before the Bears clawed back with 16 unanswered points just before halftime.
Heavy and constant rain caused poor ball control by both sides for the entire 80 minutes, in a match that was separated only by a Tyler Cornish conversion.
The two sides had polarizing opening sets to the game, with a Leivaha Pulu try coming off the back of a Cody Walker bomb that went out on the full.
Pulu was put over by a lovely Cornish short ball, which meant the Roos were up 6-0 inside the opening two minutes.
Scott Sorensen was standing in an offside position at marker in the seventh minute, and therefore did not make a play at Matt McIlwrick, who picked the ball up from dummy half and ran 50 metres to score the Roos second try.
The Bears knocked the ball on coming out of trouble just moments later, which immediately invited the Roos back onto the attack.
Willie Manu thought he had a try after Cornish threw him an inside ball off the scrum as he crashed over, but the pass was ruled to have gone forward.
The Bears were losing the battle of field position at this stage of the game, and giving away back-to-back penalties certainly did not help their cause.
Cornish grubbered into the in-goal area in the 15th minute and showed tremendous speed to win the race and score off his own kick to increase the Roos lead to 18-0.
Angus Crichton made a huge run towards the goal posts and was pulled down just short of the line, before he dropped the ball in the act of scoring just five minutes later.
The Roos immediately found themselves back on the attack after the Crichton mistake and received a penalty in goal-kicking range. They opted for the two points, but Cornish missed to the right.
The Bears finally opened their account in the 28th minute when Cody Walker dummied to the left and burst through a hole to decrease the deficit to 18-6.
Suddenly, the Bears were back in the contest after an incredible Ed Murphy try off the kickoff set that included some great work from Darren Nicholls and Nathan Brown.
It started with Nicholls breaking through the line and brushing off various defenders, before passing to Brown, who charged up field and threw an unbelievable offload for Murphy to plant the ball down in the corner. Nicholls slotted the important conversion.
Walker passed for John Olive to score for the Bears two minutes out from halftime, which came off the back of a Matt Hyland forced dropout out from dummy half.
Nicholls was unable to convert the try, which meant the Roos led 18-16 at halftime.
An incredibly powerful run by Abraham Papalii and a tidy kick to the corner by Walker began the second half for both sides, however errors began to creep in due to the rain and slippery surface.
The Roos threw everything at the visitors from the 52nd to the 63rd minute, but the Bears incredible goal line defence withstood the pressure.
Another incredible Walker kick to the corner followed by a strong Olive tackle from marker allowed the Bears to go on the attack immediately afterwards, however this time it was the Roos defence that was far too strong.
Both sides had try-scoring opportunities in the final 15 minutes of the match, but failed to convert – which meant the fulltime score mirrored the halftime score of 18-16 to the Roos.
The Bears will face the Newtown Jets at Henson Park next week to determine where they finish within the top eight.
Roos 18 (Matt McIlwrick, Tyler Cornish, Leivaha Pulu tries; Mitch Cornish 3 goals)
Bears 16 (John Olive, Ed Murphy, Cody Walker tries; Darren Nicholls 2 goals)