The North Sydney Bears went down 28-20 in a brutal encounter against the Wentworthville Magpies at Ringrose Oval on Sunday afternoon.
Despite a strong opening first half from the home team, the game lived up to expectations in the second 40 as both teams fought bravely to regain the lead - thanks to some brilliant attacking raids seeing them go toe to toe on the score sheet, and match each other ferociously in defence to set up for a thrilling final 10 minutes before the ladder leaders just managed to sneak home in an electrifying game of footy.
An early mistake off the first set of the game for the Bears posed the perfect opportunity for Wentworthville to claim an early stranglehold on the game, however some strong goal-line defence from the visitors was enough to keep the game scoreless.
After a string of repeat sets at the opposite end, the Bears failed to capitalise and it just took moments later for the Magpies to take full advantage, as Scott Schulte pounced on a pin-point grubber to claim the game's first try of the afternoon.
A break by Latrell Robinson soon after might have been the perfect reply to the Magpies early try, however was brought down metres away from the try line thanks to some strong defence from fullback Honeti Tuha.
Wentworthville extended their lead on the 20-minute mark, thanks to a brilliant individual effort by Schulte as he showed great speed down the touchline to eventually beat Robinson, streaking away under the posts to score a 60-metre try and his second of the game.
A host of opportunities for the Bears down the right-hand side looked to have found the answer to crack the Magpies defence, but the series of attacking raids just weren’t enough as they were unable to capitalise on their chances.
Just as the halftime siren blew, the Bears were finally rewarded for their persistence as Ed Murphy crashed over in the corner thanks to a classy backline movement earned themselves a much deserved try Eli Levido failed to convert from the sideline, and the Magpies held a 12-4 lead after a strong first half.
A strong start from the Bears to open the second half were promising signs for a team trying to maintain their spot in the top eight of the competition, and a slice of luck finally went their way as Dane Nielson pounced on a loose ball and planted the ball down in the corner. Levido nailed the conversion and the deficit was brought to just two points to ignite the fire in an exciting second half.
Bears were a completely different outfit to the one that opened the game, with hunger helping them extend their lead just two minutes later as Jamel Hunt crashed his way over to claim the lead for the first time of the afternoon.
Wentworthville managed to claim their first try of the second half, as a cross-field kick landed in the arms of Schulte, who put in a perfect grubber for back-rower Cody Nelson who just managed to plant the ball down. Dylan Izzard missed his first conversion of the day, setting the scores at 16-14 with 20 minutes to play.
The Bears held their own after the ladder leaders third of the afternoon, and they responded just shortly after thanks to a brilliant cut-out pass from Robinson which allowed Abbas Miski to cruise his way to the line to claim the lead once again. Levido made up for his previous missed conversions, nailing the sideline attempt to claim a four-point lead with just 15 minutes remaining.
An incredibly entertaining game of footy continued to give more and more with Schulte crossing for his hat-trick straight after losing the lead, with some slick hands from centre Jake Butler-Fleming allowing the competition leaders to gain an immediate reply and draw the game level. Izzard converted brilliantly from the sideline to give his team a two-point lead with just 10 minutes to play.
Moments later, Wentworthville all but sealed the game after another mistake from the visitors allowed Honeti Tuha to earn himself a well deserved try, extending their lead to eight points after a brutal closing to a brilliant game of footy.
Despite the heroic efforts of the North Sydney Bears, it just wasn’t enough to do damage as Wentworthville extended their lead on top of the Intrust Super Premiership NSW ladder, thanks to a hard-fought, well-deserved 28-20 victory.