A 40 metre field goal from halfback Brock Lamb has secured the North Sydney Bears a dramatic come-from-behind 21-20 win over a determined Wentworthville Magpies outfit at Ringrose Park.
The game hung in the balance for large periods, with the lead changing hands on five occasions before Lamb atoned for two missed conversion attempts late in the second half, to seal the win for the Bears with his epic field goal, with just seconds left on the clock.
Coming into the game, the home team were significantly strengthened by the late inclusion of NRL regular, centre Josh Hoffman but conversely for the Bears, centre Matt Ikuvalu, was a key withdrawal, replaced by James Tuitahi.
Norths opened the scoring through Ed Murphy in the 11th minute of play after earning several repeat sets inside the opposition’s 20.
The try coming off a well worked shift left, with the Magpies’ right edge defence short on numbers.
Brock Lamb converted from near the touchline to give the away team a dream 6-0 lead.
But the Magpies worked their way back into the game and were rewarded for their efforts with a try in the 27th minute to that man Josh Hoffman and with Brad Keighran’s conversion from out wide, scores were level.
But for the most part, the first half was a grinding affair with neither team able to break the others’ defensive line.
An overzealous tackle by Tautahi saw the deadlock broken after Keighran slotted over the ensuing penalty goal from 30m out, to give the Magpies what seemingly was going to be a 8-6 lead at the main break.
But an error from the kick-off gifted the Bears one last chance to attack the try line and they regained the lead just before the siren sounded, when replacement prop Stefano Hala crashed over from close range to give his side an 12-8 advantage.
The first half was a tight affair but the Magpies blew the game wide open in early in the second half.
Bevan French, who having been switched into the halves by coach Rip Taylor at halftime, was on hand to steal a Keighran inside kick from the grasps of Bears fullback, Kieran Moss to score out wide.
A penalty from the restart, enabled the Magpies to take the biggest lead of the game, when classy hooker, Matt McIllwrick spotted an opening on the Bears defensive line and dived over to score from close range, to push the lead out to 20-12.
But if it was all Magpies in the opening 20 minutes of the second half, it was all Bears in the final 20 as they mounted a dramatic comeback.
A nicely-worked outside-inside play between Sam Verrills and back-rower Sitili Tupouniua, enabled the interchange hooker to score out wide to reduce the gap to four points, before a penalty from the kick-off allowed the visitors to draw level minutes later with a try in the corner to winger Curtis Johnston.
Some steel shown in their goal-line defence gave the visitors one last chance to snatch victory with a minute remaining on the clock and there wasn’t a more relieved man on the ground than the man who kicked the booming field goal from long distance to seal the Bears’ second win in as many weeks.
“Obviously we didn’t ice the game a little bit earlier than that,” Lamb told NSWRL just moments after the game.
“It’s nicely personally to get that field goal but in saying that the boys put me in the perfect spot to nail it after we defended our last two sets on our line.
“I’ve kicked a couple in games before but never towards the end of a game to win it like that before.
“Obviously I pride myself on my goal kicking but I made a terrible attempt earlier to nail one so I knew I had to make up for it and thankfully I did.”
Next Sunday, the Magpies have another home game, this time against 2018 grand finalists, Newtown, while the Bears return home next Saturday to host the defending premiers, Canterbury.