Bears v Warriors
North Sydney Oval, Sunday 10 April
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North Sydney Oval is all set for a homecoming on Sunday afternoon, when the Bears return to their traditional playing surface for the first time this year to take on the Warriors. With big plans for the Bears’ home fixtures in season 2016, it is sure to be a fun-filled atmosphere.
A big focus on closing out games paid dividends in the Bears’ Round 5 match against the Knights; with 10 points apiece at the half-time break, the North Sydney side managed to grind out a victory in what coach Ben Gardiner admits was a messy affair at T G Millner Field.
“It wasn’t a pretty win, it wasn’t a pretty game, either,” Gardiner told NSWRL.com.au. “There were a lot of errors in it and all of that sort of stuff, but sometimes if you can win ugly that’s a boost for the team.”
“We’ve had some problems finishing second halves and closing out games in the first four rounds. It’s not so much that we ran away with it or anything like that, it was more that we were able to grind away with our style of footy and just get the win.”
While the ladder shows North Sydney to be the third-best defensive side in the competition, it also shows that their Round 6 opponents have scored 18 more points than them to date – and Gardiner maintains that his side’s defensive efforts will be key to taking out this game.
“We’re going to have to focus on getting our defensive game right,” Gardiner put simply. “I think last week we did a step in the right direction with our defensive game – particularly considering some of the poorer efforts we’ve had with defence earlier in the year – but I think that this is going to be one of our biggest challenges.
“Not only is this side a side that can move the ball around, they’ve got the power to run hard through the middle, they’ve also got some great offloading players as well. They have some real attacking brilliance that we’re going to need to do a really good job at defensively together as a team.”
Named as 18th man in the Rabbitohs’ NRL squad, there is also the chance that the Bears will welcome back second-rower Paul Carter – who has made the fourth-most tackles for South Sydney from just four appearances and who was vital to North Sydney’s victory last week. Carter’s possible inclusion could also provide a significant boost to the Bears’ defence against the Warriors on Sunday.
This article first appeared on NSWRL.com.au