A Brad Dietz inspired North Sydney Bears have pulled off an upset victory over the in-form Mounties thanks to a near-perfect first-half performance.
Mounties came into the game as undeniably the best team of 2016 so far with just one loss to their name, while the Bears were aiming to bounce back from one of the worst performances in recent memory against Wyong last week.
Dietz had an opening 40-minutes to remember, while late-inclusion Devon Makoare-Boyce was also a constant threat with the ball in hand. The added influence of Levido had certainly been missing last week, and his positive presence was once again on show today.
A string of penalties led to immediate field position for Mounties, and despite throwing everything at them, the Bears’ line held strong. Mitch Kennedy looked like he was going to score for all money, but an amazing tackle led by Dietz held him up and prevented the try.
The next 15 minutes of the game was your classic end-to-end style of football, with both sides happy to complete their sets and get a kick away without mounting any sort of pressure.
The Bears finally went on the attack for the first time shortly afterwards, and the two halves in Sitiveni Moceidreke and Eli Levido combined to give Ed Murphy enough room to burst into a small hole and dive over for the opening try of the match.
Mounties may not have been able to put points on the board in their previous attacking raid, but once they had another sniff they executed perfectly. Kato Ottio charged onto a ball close to the line, before throwing a nice offload onto the chest of Jarrad Kennedy, who wrestled his way over to reduce the deficit to 6-4.
A mistake off the kick-off proved to be terrible for Mounties, as off the ensuing set in front of the posts, Dietz sold a dummy so far to his left that he did a 360 degree spin, before charging through a hole left by the drifting markers to crash over.
A ruck-penalty while defending their line the following set cost Mounties another two points, nudging the Bears’ lead out to 10.
Dietz got a set going with an amazing run out of trouble, before a fantastic offload by Makoare-Boyce set-up a linebreak deep into Mounties’ half. A few tackles later, thanks to some exciting second-phase play finished off by Moceidreke, the Bears extended their lead to 20-4.
Mounties had to be first to score in the second-half, and that’s exactly what they did after a left-to-right shift had Alofi Mataele darting down the sideline to score in the corner.
It looked like the Bears were going to be next to score after bursting through the line, but a brilliant effort by Lachlan Croker shut down the opportunity with a brilliant tackle.
After a simple mistake made whilst retrieving a kick, the Bears’ were put under immediate pressure, and Mounties had no trouble capitalising on the opportunity thanks to an Eddie Aiono try, who finished off a right-to-left shift.
The momentum was well and truly with Mounties, and suddenly, they were back within reach after Glen Buttriss charged through a gap to reduce the deficit to just four, after their fourth consecutive conversion was waved away.
The final 10 minutes were nail biting, but the Bears sealed the game after Tulsa Saumamao charged onto a ball and scored under the posts, to give them a 26-16 victory.
This story first appeared on NSWRL.com.au.