Wests Tigers have been run down by the North Sydney Bears to suffer a 26-22 defeat in their Round 12 NSW Cup clash on Saturday morning at Leichhardt Oval.
Despite leading 22-0 just before the break, North Sydney stormed home with a run of tries in the final 25 minutes of the game to steal the two points and give Wests Tigers their second straight defeat following a similar loss last week to the Wyong Roos.
A well-weighted grubber from Josh Drinkwater would produce the first points of the match after just three minutes, with centre Nathan Milone reacting quickest to beat the defence — as well as wing partner John Sila — to plant the ball down out wide.
Drinkwater was unable to convert from out wide, leaving the score at 4-0.
After sustaining three repeat sets from the Bears on their own line, a sharp piece of defending from Drinkwater saw the halfback race up field to put his side on the attack. And after Cody Walker was put on report for a dangerous tackle, a back-line move saw Lamar Liolevave and Kurtis Rowe combine to put Sila over in the left corner.
Drinkwater added the sideline conversion for a 10-0 lead after 26 minutes of play.
A 40/20 in the next set from Drinkwater saw Wests Tigers again mount an attacking raid, with Drinkwater showing his class to deliver another try-assist — this time with a strong short ball for Brenden Santi, who burst through to score next to the posts.
Converting the try, Drinkwater took the home side’s lead out to 16-0 after 30 minutes, before Wests Tigers made it three tries in seven minutes through Drinkwater after crafty hooker Manaia Cherrington found some space in the middle of the field.
That gave the home side a commanding 22-0 lead, which the Bears would reduce slightly just before the break courtesy of a strong solo try from Irae Simone to take the scoreline to 22-4 as the two teams went to the half-time sheds at Leichhardt Oval.
As both teams struggled to complete their sets and take advantage of the chances that presented themselves early in the second half, North Sydney eventually crossed for first points of the half in the 60th minute when Keresoma Sione crashed over under the posts, and that would begin an avalanche of points for the North Sydney Bears.
Bernard Gregorious reduced the margin to 22-14 in the 64th minute with a good finish out wide, before Darren Nicholls crossed in the 70th minute to take the score to 22-20.
A desperate try-saving tackle from Kurtis Rowe on Cody Walker looked to have kept Wests Tigers in the winners circle late in the match, before a frantic fifth-tackle play with just two minutes to go saw Jesse Roberts cross out wide for the match-winner.
That would take the score to 26-22 in favour of North Sydney, which is how it would read as the full-time siren sounded at Leichhardt Oval just moments after that try.
Wests Tigers will look to bounce back from two straight defeats when they travel to Goulburn next weekend to take on the Illawarra Cutters on Saturday, June 6.
North Sydney Bears 26 (Simone, Sione, Gregorious, Nicholls, Roberts tries; Nicholls 3/5 goals) def. Wests Tigers 22 (Milone, Sila, Santi, Drinkwater tries; Drinkwater 3/4 goals)