With a number of key players missing the Newcastle Knights stumbled to a close 18-12 loss against the North Sydney Bears at North Sydney Oval on Sunday afternoon.
In a match marred by errors, the Knights competed well against an experienced Bears side boosting big names like Nathan Merritt, Lote Tuqiri, Joel Reddy and Tom Burgess.
While Norths were loaded with plenty of NRL campaigners, the men in red and blue were hit hard by injuries and the absence of crucial players like Nathan Ross and Travis Waddell.
Newcastle may have been down on personnel, but they competed hard against the Bears.
The Knights led 6-4 at halftime, while the scores were locked at 12-all with 25 minutes remaining in the second half however, it was North Sydney who finished the stronger.
Newcastle will now look to regroup after three straight losses when they take on the Wests Tigers at Campbelltown Stadium next Saturday from 1.10pm.
North Sydney dominated possession in the opening exchanges, but couldn’t covert their chances as a result of some strong Knights’ defence.
The Bears refused to give in though and opened the scoring after 25 minutes via centre Joel Reddy, who raced down the eastern touchline to score.
Five-eighth Kurt Aldridge missed the conversion, but it was the home side with an early 4-0 lead.
Newcastle hit back in the closing stages of the first half when interchange forward Brenton Horwood dived over under the posts.
Mantellato converted from in front to give the Knights a slender 6-4 advantage at the halftime break.
North Sydney had the dream start to the second half when fullback Nathan Merritt did it all himself to score from close range.
Aldridge again missed the conversion, but it was the Bears back in front 8-6 with 34 minutes remaining in the match.
North Sydney extended their lead 10 minutes later when winger Curtis Johnston scored in the northeastern corner.
Aldridge missed the kick from the sideline, but the home side remained in control leading 12-6.
Newcastle refused to give in though and locked the scores at 12-all with 20 minutes remaining following a try to forward Tyler Randell.
The Knights were back in the contest with plenty of time still left on the clock, but vital mistakes proved costly.
This gave North Sydney vital field possession to regain the lead 18-12 after a try to forward Joe Picker with just nine minutes remaining.
Newcastle had their chances to score late in the match, but it was the Bears who held on to win at home.