The Wentworthville Magpies have put the North Sydney Bears' season on life support after handing them a 36-30 defeat at North Sydney Oval.
Match: Bears v Magpies
Round 22 -
Venue: North Sydney Oval
North Sydney nearly completed the most incredible of comebacks with five tries in the last 20 minutes, but Wentworthville managed to cling on.
Strengthened by the additions of Parramatta NRL-regulars Bevan French and Josh Hoffman – who both scored tries – the Magpies ran in four unanswered four-pointers during the opening 30 minutes to set up the win.
The loss will sting more than usual for the Bears who could have moved to eighth with a win.
While the Bears had everything at stake, it was the Magpies who landed the first blow through French in the ninth minute.
The lightning-fast fullback found a slight gap from close range and flashed through it to register four points. Nathan Davis converted, giving Wentworthville a 6-0 lead.
Magpies lock Raymond Stone extended the margin six minutes later. Having been awarded a penalty around 11 metres out from North Sydney's goal-line, Stone took a cunning quick-tap and barged over.
Davis added the extras to push the score out to 12-0.
With the game slipping away, the Bears looked towards their star playmaker Connor Tracey to produce something special – and that he did.
Tracey made a scintillating clean break from within North Sydney's end, but his attempted pass to a support player went awry and a try-scoring chance was missed.
Instead of reducing the gap to six, the Bears found themselves down by 18 when Wentworthville hooker Rhys Davies burrowed across the chalk. Davis again kicked the goal.
Soon the difference was four converted tries, as Hoffman dotted down after backing up a Magpies bust.
In the shadows of half-time, the Bears posted a try via winger Sean Sabutey in the right corner, giving themselves a flicker of hope. Halfback Dean Hawkins nailed the goal kick from the sideline.
But any visions of a grand Bears fightback seemed improbable when Abbas Miski drove his way in for Wentworthville's fifth converted try in the 52nd minute.
Wentworthville's Davis then boosted his personal points tally to 16 by scoring a break-away try to complement his six goals. The score was 36-6 at that point.
Against the odds, North Sydney began a late charge on the back of a four-pointer from fullback Jesse Arthars, then added another to Tracey following the sin-binning of the Magpies' Davies.
Tracey collected a second try off a kick moments later – his third double in as many weeks – as the Bears gathered steam. They piled on a fifth try to Sean Sabutey in the 74th minute.
Arthars scored his second off a scrum move in the dying stages and suddenly everything North Sydney touched turned to gold.
But they ran out of time in the end, with goal-kicking proving to be the difference.
If the Bears are to make the finals from here, they need to win both remaining games while relying on the New Zealand Warriors to lose.
The teams meet in the final round at North Sydney Oval and it could potentially be a shoot-out for eighth place.