The North Sydney Bears have won their second trial match of the season, defeating the Newcastle Knights 32-16 in a promising display at Redfern Oval.
Hooker Jesse Martin was far and away the most dominant player for the Bears, controlling the match from the ruck and being rewarded for his efforts with two tries to his name.
The 21-year-old took his opportunity with two hands as he looks to earn a first grade debut with the South Sydney Rabbitohs this season, while the likes of Ky Rodwell and Dean Hawkins did their NRL aspirations no harm in a dominant display from the men in red and black.
Strong defence from the Bears dictated the match from the outset, with early pressure leading to the Knights kicking the ball out on the full just 20 metres out from their own line.
The territory gave the Bears first points as teenage winger Tyrone Taukamo touched down after some quick hands earned him his first try in Bears colours. Halfback Hawkins missed the sideline conversion, leaving the Bears with an early 4-0 lead.
Unfortunately the Bears lost possession just a few tackles after the kick-off and gave the Knights a perfect opportunity to reply, but strong defence prevented them from hitting back. A penalty on halfway a few sets later gave Newcastle another chance to probe the line, and eventually they crashed over in the corner off a wayward pass. The Knights converted to level the scoring at 6-6 after ten minutes.
The next few sets were affected by penalties, however Hawkins brought some composure for the Bears with a finely-weighted kick to force a dropout. On the next set, Norths shifted the ball to the other side of the field, resulting in a try to winger Asher Veamatahau. Hawkins converted the try to give the Bears a 12-6 lead after the first quarter.
The next stanza began with the Bears heavily applying pressure through their defence and kicking, led by Martin, who was rewarded with his first try after crashing over from dummy-half. The conversion was missed, but Norths still maintained a 16-6 advantage.
The momentum of the match continued to sway as the Bears lost the ball off the kick-off once again, and although Martin made a try saving tackle soon after, the Knights struck back out wide through an overlap.
Martin did his best to rally his troops for the remainder of the quarter, putting in some clever kicks and leading the defence to pin the Knights in their own territory, but the scores remained 16-12 at halftime.
The second half began with the Bears immediately gaining territory after a ruck infringement by the Knights, and five-eighth Kurtis Preece’s efforts were rewarded with a try of his own after earning his side a dropout. His halves partner Hawkins converted to give the Bears a ten-point buffer.
Norths made it back-to-back tries with Martin bagging his second after backing up from an offload. Taukamo made one of the plays of the day after running down an opponent, and saving a try in the process. The rest of the quarter was plagued by errors and penalties as the Bears went into the final 20 with a 26-12 advantage.
Just one try was scored from the Bears in the final quarter as a majority of their side, including Hawkins and Martin, was given an early rest. Despite this however, the defensive effort remained for Norths as they continued to hold off the Knights impressively after having to defend three sets in a row on their own line.
Errors continued to cruel both sides and try-scoring opportunities went begging, however the Bears eventually struck after a Preece bomb led to a Sean Sabutey try, with the try converted. While the Bears continued to mount pressure on their opponents, the Knights would bag a runaway try on the bell.
The match was an overall success for the Bears, particularly their younger players, including teenage front rower Ky Rodwell, who managed to play through the entire 80 minutes, impressing with some strong running and big hits in defence.
Amaruki and Asher Veamatahau combined finely in the backline, and dominant displays from Martin, Hawkins, Preece and Taukamo should ensure that the Bears have a strong ISP season in 2018.