Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
3 days ago
"What a statement" declared Norths General Manager Greg Florimo. What a statement indeed; the first match of the season and against a club with one of the strongest junior leagues the Parramatta Eels. A close match and a fabulous performance from the Bears entertained the crowd with impeccable and highly effective defence and courageous try combinations to win 28 to 24 at Cabramatta Sports Ground on Saturday.
As the game began Captain Anthony Kiro showed the way with winger Joseph Swamy also making good yards before the kick and turn over. In defence Melbourne Storm player Ian Donnelly made a giant hit before joining hooker Ben Ellis in a massive tackle to force a ball loss and scrum to Norths. A further penalty to the Bears and a quick tap gave them a chance but their time was yet to come. More great defence from Storm recruit Tevita Metuisela. Back on attack one of last years best Namila Davui showed great strength and speed making 30m in one run and Tevita Metuisela again making more metres. Then the change over and again Donnelly and Ellis hit the Eels again forcing a ball loss. More metres made as Aaron Heremaia kicked to the line. Another set of six and a devastating run from Davui and a superb pass to winger Scott Webb to score the first of his two tries, Aaron Heremaia converted, the score 6-0. Parra then hit back from a penalty at kick off, 6-6. But more effective defence from Norths as the Eels dropped the pill in-goal, the Bears now in attack at the Eels end. A 2nd set of six from a penalty allowing last years Jersey Flegg star Johnny Russell to make a lengthy and speedy run passing to Heremaia to score, 10-6 to the Bears.
Soon after the kick off Ben Ellis made another effective run as the Bears grew in confidence. Captain Anthony Kiro made a great run to pass back to Ben Ellis who scored 14-6 now to the Bears. As the first half finished the devastating threesome of Namila Davui, Heremaia and lock Luke Fatnowna hit the Eels for six however the Eels gained momentum in the last 3 to score 14-12 to the Bears.
As the 2nd began Johnny Russell again made a superb run leaving the Eels starry eyed as he passed to centre Namila Davui to score, 18-12 to the Bears. Parra then hit back with a good try, 18-16. Donnelly was again effective in defence winning the ball back. At the kick Joseph Swamy and Chris Tuatara gave a great chase. Then Norths made an exciting run to the line started by another strong run from Donnelly then Second rower Michael Harper passing to Ben Ellis who took the attack to the Eels line but Parra withstood the Bears attack. Another try to Parra brought the score to 24-18 as the Eels hit the lead for the first time. From the kick off Davui and Webb showed powerful defence to take a Parramatta player out. The Bears then launched a superb passing game with Chris Tuatara finally passing to Joseph Swamy to score. Under pressure to even the score and in difficult wind conditions Heremaia kicked superbly, the score now 24 all.
The Bears were now unstoppable Andrew Moodie, Tuatara and Swamy forcing the Eels back 20m or more with Wayne McDade and Donnelly doing more damage. Finally a Harper hit forced the Eels to lose the ball once again.
From the scrum an amazing set as Scot Webb and Luke Fatnowna made quality metres and Lester Salanoa making 20 metres. Finally "Captain Kiro" started a final run passing to Tuatara who popped the ball to Webb scoring his second try. The excitement was not over however great runs by Donnelly, Davui, Kiro and front rower Chris Weaver and at the kick another Eel smothering chase from Moodie, Davui and McDade. Parra then kicked to touch, the crowd now on it's feet as the Bears let it go to touch but Norths withstood the Eels attack as the crowd erupted and cheered them from the field.
After the match Coach Gary Freeman did not to single out anyone preferring to thank every player even those that did not make a run on the field stressing everyone that trained for the match was part of the team that won.
This match which was required to be played prior to the season due to scheduling, already gives the Bears 2 points for the season. Round 1 is a bye for the Bears this will be followed by their second hit out against the Dragons at WIN Stadium.