By Blake Edwards
Illawarra continued their charge into the finals after defeating the North Sydney Bears 30-16 at UOW Jubilee Oval, Kogarah on Saturday.
Illawarra were bolstered with the inclusion of Jake Marketo, Jacob Host, Kalifa Faifai Loa and 2016 grand final hero Drew Hutchison. The latter returning from an ACL injury suffered in the pre-season.
Illawarra found their way across the line early through prop Rhys Kennedy, after receiving some quality service from playmaker Jack Payne.
Adam Clune continued his impressive season, when he raced away to score off the back of a classy offload from Luciano Leilua to extend the lead to 12 in the opening quarter.
The Bears hit back through Tautalatasi Tasi, before a leaping Kalifa Faifai Loa went over in the corner to give his side a 18-6 lead at half-time.
Leilua continued Illawarra’s first half dominance, when he received a neat offload from Josh Kerr to tumble his way over the line. Jacob Hind followed suit a short while later to get his side's fifth of the afternoon.
A late double to the Bears’ Abbas Miski wasn’t enough to get the Bears over the line, with Illawarra running out 14-point victors to secure seventh position on the Intrust Super Premiership ladder.
Illawarra 30 (Adam Clune, Jacob Hind, Kalifa Faifai Loa, Rhys Kennedy, Luciano Leilua tries; Jai Field 5 goals) defeated North Sydney Bears 16 (Abbas Miski 2, Tautalatasi Tasi tries; Eli Levido 2 goals) at UOW Jubilee Oval, Kogarah. Half-time: Illawarra 18-6.