Bears finish off Magpies
From TONY ADAMS in Sydney
WESTERN Suburbs bowed out of the Australian Rugby League final race against Norths yesterday - but the gallant Magpies went down fighting.
The unfashionable Magpies proved the surprise packets of the 1995 season before losses in four of their past five games brought about their undoing.
Norths went into yesterday's game as red-hot favourites at home but were made to battle.
There was an early indication that this was not to be Wests day after just five minutes when Magpies winger Tony Wall snapped up an intercept.
Wall crashed over in the corner, but the touch judge ruled he failed to ground the ball before being pushed out. Television replays later showed it was a fair try.
Norths rubbed salt in the Magpies' wounds by dominating the remainder of the half, charging to a 20-0 lead.
With halves Jason Taylor and Greg Florimo playing dominant roles, the Bears piled on four tries against a shell-shocked Wests outfit.
But any thoughts Norths had of an easy afternoon were quickly shattered as Wests came out breathing fire in the second half.
The Magpies emulated Norths' first half scoring burst, putting on three tries in the opening 20 minutes to reduce Norths' lead to 20-16.
Skipper Paul Langmack was the key man in Wests' fine comeback, laying on one try and scoring another himself with a clever dummy and change of pace.
Wests finally ran out of gas, however, and Norths regained their composure in the final 15 minutes, sealing victory with late tries to full-back Matt Seers and second-rower David Fairleigh.
With both sides locked in eighth spot on 20 points before the match, Norths will live to fight another day.
After a slow start to the year, the Bears have found form and will be a danger to the more fancied teams in the upcoming semi-finals. Wests must win their last two games to qualify.