By Jake Bull
The Illawarra Cutters were defeated 44-32 by the North Sydney Bears at North Sydney Oval on Saturday.
After losing three players to injury in the first 20 minutes, the team played 60 minutes with one interchange player but still managed to score some late second-half tries.
It took ten minutes before the opening try of the game when Bears prop Zane Musgrove barged his way over the line.
Darren Nicholls added the two points for a 6-0 lead.
Five minutes later the visitors got back into the game when Craig Garvey burrowed over from close to the line.
Blake Wallace converted to make it 6-all.
In the 21st minute the lead went back to the home side when a long range effort ended with Cody Walker diving over.
Nicholls pushed the lead back out to six with a 12-6 lead.
The opening stages were a see-sawing affair and in the 26th minute Garvey had his second after again going from dummy-half.
Wallace added the extras for a 12-all scoreline.
With five minutes to play in the first half the Bears took the lead for the third time when prop Nathan Brown crashed over.
Darren Nicholls was having a good day with the boot as he made it 18-12.
It looked like that would be the half-time score but as the half-time buzzer sounded in the background the home side shifted the ball to the left and scored in the corner through Latrell Schaumkel as the Bears went into the break with a 22-12 lead.
Two minutes into the second half and they continued their momentum when Nicholls found a gap and burst through to score.
He converted his own try as the score read 28-12.
Ten minutes later the Cutters got back on the board when a grubber close to the line ended with Junior Vaivai pounced on it and scored to make it 28-16.
It was back-to-back for Illawarra on 55 minutes when backrower, who was forced to play centre, Peni Botiki powered his way over the line to make it an eight point game at 28-20.
The comeback was short-lived though when in the 62nd minute Schaumkel scored his second of the game by beating a few defenders.
Nicholls added the two points to make it 34-20.
It was the home sides turn for a flurry of tries when Cody Walker went in again for his second try.
Darren Nicholls was getting plenty of practice as he made it 40-20.
Two minutes later former Gold Coast Titan, Paul Carter, went over from close range to make it 44-20.
Late tries to Luke Page and a second to Botiki, along with conversions on both occasions from Blake Wallace saw the visitors not leave disgraced but would leave with a 44-32 loss.
Illawarra Cutters 32 Tries: Garvey (2), Botiki (2), Page, Vaivai. Goals: Wallace (4/6).
North Sydney Bears 44. Tries: Musgrove, Walker (2), Brown, Schaumkel (2), Nicholls. Goals: Nicholls (6/8).