Wests Tigers’ NSW Cup boys have bounced back into the winners circle with a hard-fought 42-24 win over the North Sydney Bears on Saturday afternoon.
Despite trailing 20-12 midway through the first half against the competition cellar dwellars and without a true halfback — courtesy of Michael Stevens’ late withdrawl — the visitors were able to deliver a full 80 minute performance on the day and emerge with the two competition points to show for it.
After a communication breakdown allowed the opening kickoff to run dead in-goal, North Sydney took full advantage of their strong field position to post first points of the match through Curtis Johnston in the left corner.
Jordan Worboys couldn’t add the extras from the sideline, though, and the score read 4-0 in the hosts’ favour after just five minutes of play.
A good scrum move from the visitors saw Jarred Farlow sent Setefano Taukafa over in the ninth minute, with the winger bursting through the defence to plant the ball down between the uprights for a simple conversion.
Jack Madden duly added the extras to put the visitors in front 6-4.
That lead was extended shortly after following another good short ball from Farlow — this time to Sitaleki Akauola, who crashed through the line.
Madden added the extras from close to the posts for a 12-4 lead after 15 minutes.
The hosts soon hit back, though, in a frantic first half, with a raid down the short side allowing Curtis Johnston to beat Taukafa down the right touchline and get the ball down inside the corner — despite the best efforts of Jy Hitchcox.
Worboys again missed the conversion to leave the score at 12-8.
After Kyle Lovett narrowly missed out reeling in a grubber from Madden in the 26th minute, North Sydney took the ball 80m from the ensuing tap to hit the lead via a strong running Nathaniel Neale on the last tackle.
Worboys finally added the extras to put the Bears in front 14-12, and they would soon cross the line again — thanks to an acrobatic effort from Johnston.
The winger chipped for himself on the fourth tackle, and the ball just landed inside the dead ball line — bouncing up on its end to evade all the covering Wests Tigers defenders and allow Johnston to plant the ball down.
Worboys’ conversion saw the scoreline blow out to 20-12 in favour of the hosts and leave the visitors with plenty of thinking to do as half-time approached.
Some strong work from Joel Luani away from the ruck saw the margin pegged back to just two points heading into the main break, with Akauola grabbing his second of the day in the 35th minute following another good short ball.
Madden’s conversion saw the score read 20-18 at the half-time break.
After a stern dressing down from Head Coach Paul Fletcher at the break, Wests Tigers came out much stronger in the second half, with their energy in defence seeing the Bears come up short despite five repeat sets on the visitors’ line.
It would soon produce a reward for the visitors, with Madden sending over Corey Brown to wrestle back the lead in the 49th minute.
The playmaker couldn’t add the extras, though, and the score remained 22-20.
On the back of several repeat sets on the hosts’ line, Wests Tigers again crossed as their attacking nous began to come to the fore — this time through Tauaka again following a sharp back-line raid to the right wing in the 58th minute.
A brilliant kick return from Jy Hitchcox saw the Bears’ right-edge defence opened right up, and the fullback linked up with John Sila down field — allowing the winger to plant the ball down under the posts on debut to push the lead out to two converted tries following Madden’s successful conversion.
Sam Hollis got in on the action in the 70th minute when he barged his way over from dummy half, with Madden’s conversion pushing the lead out to 38-20.
Another strong ball from Madden close to the line saw Kyle Lovett crash over in the 75th minute to push the scoreline out to 42-20, with Madden's unable to add the extras.
Johnston would grab his third of the day in the final minute of the game but it would be purely academic, as Wests Tigers charged to a comprehensive win.
Final: Wests Tigers 42 def. North Sydney Bears 24