It was a clash not without intrigue.
How would ambitious Gunnedah, with two wins from two outings under new coach Sean Hayne this year, fare against the reigning premiers, who were coming off a 94-0 drubbing against Collegian.
The short answer is, not bad.
Sure, the Bulldogs lost to a side that led 18-8 at the break on Sunday and never looked like surrendering the lead after that in a 34-14 loss, but the visitors showed they are determined not to be pushed around by any side this year.
When the Bears crossed for their final try with only two minutes left in the match after sustained pressure, Hayne slapped his hands together in disappointment – 30-14 would probably have been a truer indication of the match.
After the game, he was obviously disappointed with the loss.
But for him, there were a number of positives to take out of the encounter.
He obviously would have taken the win. Although like he said pre-match, this was a chance for him to gauge where the side was at early in the season.
“We dropped a bit of ball but the intensity for most of the match was pretty good,” he said.
“They all dug deep for each other … There were just a few errors where we let ourselves down.
“We’ll have to work on that in the coming week, the coming weeks.”
Hayne was most impressed with the side’s defensive effort.
“We were in the game for a fair while, which was pleasing,” he said, adding that he would give the Bulldogs seven out of 10.
We were in the game for a fair while, which was pleasingBulldogs coach Sean Hayne
The Bears, who recorded their second successive win after losing to Narrabri 32-28 in round one, extended the lead to 24-8 when replacement Brock Wadwell scurried over from dummy half close to the line in the 62nd minute.
Centre Richard Clegg added the extras.
The home side effectively wrapped up the match shortly after that when replacement Alec Cocking barged over from close range.
But the Bulldogs responded to the challenge by launching their own attacking raids, showing a degree of steel that would have impressed their coach and supporters.
Their grit was rewarded through a try that typified that fightback.
Danny Read showed ample strength to turn in a tackle on the tryline and crash over.
Halfback Marcus Hayne converted and it was 30-14.
In other Group 4 first division games played on Sunday, South West Robins rebounded from a savage loss to Narrabri to beat the Warriors 48-16, while Narrabri punished Wee Waa 116-4.
It has been a miserable start to the season by Wee Waa and Collegian and there is a Grand Canyon gap between them and North Tamworth, Narrabri and Gunnedah.
In three matches, Wee Waa has scored 34 points and conceded a whopping 236, while the Warriors have scored 16 and conceded 198.