By Adam Bagnall (NSWRL)
The Illawarra Cutters were defeated 24-12 by the North Sydney Bears at WIN Stadium, Wollongong on Saturday.
The home side was boosted by the inclusion of Kurt Mann who replaced Adam Quinlan at fullback.
The Cutters suffered a nightmare start when their kick off went out on the full and they were forced to defend early on.
They survived the initial set but conceded a line drop out in the process and the Bears converted their opportunity into points when Ed Murphy caught a cross field kick and forced his way over.
Eli Levido converted to make it 6-0 after 6 minutes.
The Bears marched down field from the kick off and another Cutters penalty nearly resulted in more points as the Bears fumbled the final pass with line wide open.
This gave the Cutters their first use of the ball and they made plenty of ground but a silly penalty at the end allowed the Bears an easy passage out of their own half.
The Cutters managed to hold them out but minutes later another error gave their opposition yet more field position but a shepherd ended the Bears’ attacking raid and the Cutters made their way down field courtesy of a much-needed penalty.
With the Cutters on the attack a Hutchison cross field kick was safely defused but the Bears made an error coming out of their own end as the topsy turvy game continued with both sides guilty of poor discipline.
In the 22nd minute Bears winger Tavtalatasi Tasi took advantage of some lazy Cutters defence and dived on a grubber inches from the dead ball line to grab the Bears’ second.
Levido converted to make it 12-0.
Three minutes later a Bears penalty gave the Cutters a great chance to score close to the line but remarkably it resulted in a try 80 metres down the other end of the field.
A wayward pass was scooped up by Tasi who raced away and the ball eventually made its way across field to Bears winger Tom Hughes who beat Kalifa Fai Fai Loa to score a fantastic team try.
A forward pass in the 32nd minute ended another Cutters’ raid but the Bears followed this with an error of their own.
Another Cutters penalty put the Bears in great field position, and with just 2 minutes left in the half Levido stepped up and slotted the penalty goal over to make it 18-0.
The Cutters repelled the Bears early in the second half with a fine tackle that jolted the ball loose.
Damian Sironen made the Cutters’ first line break in the 44th minute but couldn't find any support and the play broke down and the Bears went close to scoring at the other end but the Cutters intercepted a long pass and went on the attack.
The Cutters appeared to score through winger Tom Carr in the 47th minute but some foul play involving Jake Marketo resulted in the try being denied and Marketo was placed on report for the incident.
The Cutters were denied again when Mann went over in the 52nd minute, this time for obstruction, but the Cutters looked to be the better side in the second half.
A mistake by the home side in the 56th minute put huge pressure on their defence and Hughes evaded several would be defenders to dive over out wide and score his second try of the match.
Levido’s brilliant sideline conversion made it 24-0 with just over 20 minutes remaining.
A Bears error from the kick off presented a great opportunity for the Cutters who needed to score with time running out.
A Hutchison long pass found Carr who tip toed down the sideline and dived over in the corner, a great display of athleticism by the young winger.
Cutters centre Corey Brown latched onto a poor Bears pass in the 67th minute and showed great strength and pace to score the Cutters’ second try.
With just 4 minutes remaining rising star Jacob Host ran onto a sublime Hutchinson short ball to score his sides’ third try but Taane Milne missed the conversion and the Cutters trailed 24-12.
Illawarra Cutters 12. Tries: Carr, Brown, Host. Goals: Wallace (0/3).
North Sydney Bears 24. Tries: Hughes (2), Tasi, Murphy. Goals: Levido (3/4). Penalty Goal: Levido (1/1).