GUNNEDAH gave North Tamworth a hurry-up but the Bears finished stronger to keep the $3000 main prize at its pre-season invitational tournament at Jack Woolaston Oval yesterday.
The final was a close affair with Gunnedah backing up its win over Scone on Saturday with a respectable showing in the decider.
The Bulldogs even led at the last change of ends, 18-16, before Shaun Ferguson decided to get more involved and sparked the Bears into action.
He set up a try for Shane Wadwell and Josh Fisher scored late to give North a 26-18 win.
“That Ferg is the best hooker in the group,” Bears coach Brad McManus said.
“At the last break I said ‘you’re going to have to jump in there and take them forward’.
“He’s the best nine in the group by far.”
North beat Wee Waa 54-12 on Saturday to reach the final.
It was 12-all at one stage before the home side ran hot.
“I think we played better yesterday but I wasn’t here to see it,” McManus said.
“It’s good to get a win on the board.
“It was only our second game together and there’s a lot of new faces at the club this year.
“We’re working on a few combinations.
“I wasn’t too worried what happened this weekend but it’s good to get a win.”
West Lions signing Jay Ramirez scored two tries for the Bears and Mick Watton was the other scorer.
Gunnedah beat Scone 24-18 on Saturday to reach the final so coach Phil Donnelly got two tough games to help whip his side into shape. “It was a good effort after coming off a big game yesterday,” he said.
“At stages I thought we had it.
“But it’s a gutsy effort.
“They only got us in the last 10 minutes.”
As has been the case over the past few years, the Dogs are relying on their talented youngsters again this season.
They are only improving with experience.
“The young guys are starting to mature,” Donnelly said.
“There’s still a couple of 17-year-olds in there but they’re playing like men.
“We’ve still got a few to come back.
“We didn’t have Trent Hilton today and Josh Launders didn’t play and Jai Smith.
“That’s three of our good players, but it’s not an excuse.
“What we’re trying to do this year is is show everyone we’re not going to be easy beats, and I think we showed that today.”
And amongst the young brigade is former South Sydney player Shane Rampling, who at 37 is twice the age of some of the team’s pups.
But his experience is a handy addition.
“It’s good to have that old head there,” Donnelly said.
“He’s good for the young kids.
“The young players have enthusiasm but it’s good to have the older head.
“I think it will be a good season for us.
“We’ll be competitive anyway.”
The next outing for both sides is the Wests Knockout on April 6 and 7, although North is still hoping to fit in another trial next weekend, possibly against Singleton.
In yesterday’s third-place playoff Wee Waa scored late to snatch a 30-28 win over Scone.