NORTH Tamworth Bears delivered another major Group 4 premiership message to a major opponent at Jack Woolaston Oval on Saturday when they belted reigning premiers West Lions 68-10.
The previous week they had trounced second-placed Gunnedah Bulldogs 50-18 on their home field as well, continuing their unbeaten run that seems certain to deliver a major premiership to the Brad McManus-coached side.
On Saturday the Bears were dominant, racing in 12 tries and leading 36-nil at halftime before completing what they started with a good second half.
“We’re going good,” McManus said after the 58-point drilling.
“The first half set it up but our defence is also getting better and better too.
“We’ve been working on that and it’s paying off on the park.
“I’m very happy with that except for 10 minutes at the end when we went to sleep and let them score two tries.
“For 73 minutes we were very good.”
The Bears dominated, with their pack rolling forward but many of the tries coming out wide.
That didn’t worry stand-in goalkicker Richard Clegg.
He kicked 10 from 12, including a faultless first half with six from six, two or three of them from the sideline.
Clegg also crossed for two tries and a 28-point haul while young winger Callum Hayne scored a hat-trick of tries.
Hoever it was in tight where the Bears took control.
Hooker Brock Wadwell, who polled the three points from the referees in The Northern Daily Leader-sponsored Group 4 Player Of The Year Award, was a constant threat with darting runs while prop Jake Cocking, backrowers Jake Wadwell and Shaun Ferguson as well as fill-in five-eighth Ky RuRu all excelled.
Luke Byrnes, a former West Lion, came off the bench with good effect too.
Such was his robust play that he won the Bears’ players’ player award.
The only downside for the Bears were slight injuries to skipper Marshall Barker (knee) and centre Brad Marshall (ankle) but McManus was able to give them early marks while his squad went to work on a West Lions side which tried hard but never recovered from a slow start that had them 18-nil down early.
“Our preparation was spot- on,” West captain-coach Chris Hunt said.
“But their defence put us off,” he said.
“It was one of those games where we were on the back foot from the start.”
That was evident from the first set of six where the Bears rolled forward and their final tackle option had West fullback Sam Taylor dropping a difficult rolling ball on his own line.
Four tackles later and Shane Wadwell crashed over out wide for the Bears to strike hot and early.
The West skipper was full of praise for the Bears too.
“They are playing good footy and deserve to be where they are.
“They get numbers into the tackle but we’ve got to be positive and take some things out of the game.
“I thought our defence in tight was good and forced them out wide, where they scored their tries.
“It was good that were tight up the guts.
“It showed us what we’ve got to work on – that we’ve got to work on our scramble defence.”
Young pivot Mitch Doring was one of the Lions’ best, combining some nimble footwork with a power of defence.