This article first appeared on NSWRL.com.au.
While the North Sydney Bears were technically the home side at UOW Jubilee Oval, it was Illawarra who were right at home in defeating the bears 30-12 in Round 23 of the Intrust Super Premiership NSW this afternoon.
Illawarra was boosted by the return of 2016 Grand Final-winning halfback Drew Hutchison, but the NRL hopeful was moved to the bench shortly before kick-off. The likes of Jacob Host, Luciano Leilua and Jake Marketo helped their pack, while David Tyrell, Jason Clark and Anthony Cherrington made up a strong pack for North Sydney.
Some strong defence highlighted the opening exchanges, with back-to-back penalties giving Illawarra some early ball on the Bears' line. Payne made no mistake in putting Rhys Kennedy through a hole, with the prop crashing over for an early 6-0 lead.
Illawarra were looking dangerous with second-phase play, but the Bears' bruising defence was holding strong. It would soon cost them significantly, however, with Cherrington's aggression bringing consecutive penalties - the second of which was a bad-looking high shot. The tackle was not met with a sin bin, but the Bears lock came off second best and was visibly struggling to defend regardless.