The Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles have come away with a big victory over the North Sydney Bears, overcoming a shaky start to finish 42-24 winners at North Sydney Oval.
Dean Hawkins and Curtis Johnston combined for all 24 of the Bears' points, but it was not enough against a valiant Sea Eagles outfit sparked by strong performances across the park. Jackson Hastings and Cade Cust formed an impressive partnership in the halves, while Vai Toutai and forwards Toafofoa Sipley and James Hasson each registered a double.
Match: Bears v Sea Eagles
Round 11 -
Venue: North Sydney Oval, Sydney
The Bears ran out to an early 12-point lead thanks to a quick-fire double from Dean Hawkins. First, the halfback easily sliced through the defence on the back of pressure in the fourth minute, before a near-identical result in the same position four minutes later. With Hawkins converting both of his tries, it was the perfect start for the home side.
As the Bears looked to take the Sea Eagles out of the game early, Hawkins was in everything; when Blacktown halfback Cade Cust took an intercept and looked likely to get his side on the board, the North Sydney No.7 managed to chase him down. Soon after, Cust almost sent Maliko Filino over in the south-eastern corner, only for Jalen Reweti to knock the ball down.
North Sydney were still on top when Mawene Hiroti got past Jackson Hastings to run down the western touch line, before the attempted pass inside to Curtis Johnston missed and found Honeti Tuha. It would prove to be a turning point in the context of the match.
After 22 minutes, Toafofoa Sipley earned Blacktown's first points, slipping through near to the post. Just four minutes later, a Tom Wright offload found Vai Toutai in the corner, with the conversion from Hastings levelling the scores.
Perhaps the try of the match came to the Bears minutes later, as a Connor Tracey bomb found a flying Curtis Johnston, with the local hero coming up with a magnificent take to score his first try since his return to North Sydney.
At 16-12, it would be the final time the Bears held the lead, with Blacktown then hitting back via recently-returned second-rower James Hasson. Hasson took a Hastings ball to crash over, once again converted by the Sea Eagles playmaker.
In the shadows of half-time, the Sea Eagles flexed their muscles with another four-pointer, this time coming via hooker Joey Lussick. Lewis Brown first came up with a line-break in the middle of the field, before Lussick loomed up in support to ensure a 24-16 half-time lead.
The Sea Eagles picked up where they left off in the second half, with Toutai getting his second soon after the resumption of play. What started off as a big shift to the right-hand side then turned and came back the other way, largely thanks to Hastings, and then found the left-side Blacktown winger.
It was soon Hasson's turn to register a double, spinning and making light work of the North Sydney defence. He spun past Hawkins and Amanaki Veamatahau to continue the visitors' resurgence.
The Bears were not going to go down without a fight, and they soon found attacking opportunities on their right wing. Johnston scored two more tries to come up with a hat-trick, and his 100th try in North Sydney colours, both from classy right-hand shifts.
Both sides had opportunities to make their mark on the scoreline, with Tyler Cassel almost pouncing on a Lussick grubber which would have put the game to bed.
The Blacktown side continued to throw everything they had at the North Sydney defence and showed no signs of slowing down; eventually, Sipley opted to try his luck from dummy-half, crashing through to extend his side's tally to 40 points.
In the dying stages, both sides had further opportunities; Lussick almost scored after grubbering for himself from close-range, before Veamatahau was ruled to have benefitted from an obstruction in the final moments of the game. It offered Blacktown an opportunity to add an extra two points, with Hastings nailing the 30-metre conversion and finalising the 42-24 scoreline.