NORTHERN Pride gave the strongest indication yet they will be a force in this year’s Intrust Super Cup by flogging the Mackay Cutters 40-12 in their final trial match in Ayr on Saturday.
The disappointment of the previous week’s 29-22 loss to the Rabaul Gurias was erased in 80 minutes as the Pride outscored their North Queensland rivals eight tries to two.
But attack wasn’t the only area the Pride shone in, with the Cairns team showing a defensive mongrel that was sadly absent from their previous trial outings.
Pride coach Jason Demetriou said it was the performance he wanted ahead of their round one showdown with the Cutters at Barlow Park on March 16.
‘‘Attitude-wise, I thought we were miles better than we were last week,’’ he said.
‘‘I felt we defended a lot better than we have been. We’ve done a lot of work on our edge and I thought our left side was especially strong today.
‘‘We worked hard, sticking to the systems we practice in training, and I felt we got a lot of belief out of them. I think that’s good going forward into the rest of the season.’’
While happy at fulltime, Demetriou would have been furious at the start of the match when the Pride allowed the Cutters’ kick-off to bounce over the dead ball line.
Cowboys centre Kane Linnett, making a return from an elbow infection, punished the mistake when he crossed in the left corner for the Cutters in the following set.
Liam Taylor’s successful conversion gave the Cutters a 6-0 lead before Pride fullback Hezron Murgha dived over to score in the eighth minute after beating his defender close to the tryline.
Pride speedster Davin Crampton was next to cross after an inside ball from Ethan Lowe put hooker Sam Obst into a hole.
Lowe converted for a 10-6 lead before Pride halfback Ryan Ghietti made it 14- 6 when he bamboozled his opponent with an in-and-away near the posts.
The Pride were dominating and looked set to go in again, but the Cutters held on and were rewarded for their defiance when halfback Delaine Edwards scored after Murgha fumbled a short kick.
Taylor added the extras, but the Pride still led 14-12 going into the halftime break.
The Cutters had plenty of opportunities to score after the restart but were continually repelled by the Pride’s resilient goal-line defence.
The Pride began finding a lot more holes when they had possession, with Obst’s probing from dummy-half unlocking the Cutters in the middle of the field.
Lowe’s converted try in the 51st minute broke the Cutters’ resistance, and from that point the Pride never really look threatened.
Winger Semi Tadulala crossed for a second-half hat-trick thanks to some slick backline moves before Kyle Feldt made the scoresheet when he leapt high to snaffle a cross-field kick near fulltime.
In other Pride news, fiveeighth Brian Murgha and forward Merv Walker have been offered contracts after successfully trialling with the club over summer.
Northern Pride Academy had winning starts to their respective seasons against Central United at Callendar Park on Saturday.
Playing in the Mal Meninga Cup, the Pride Under 18s beat United 32-24. Second-rower Bauz Harry scored a double for the Cairns team, while Sam Pau, Samuel Aseia, Jayden Gil and Johnstone Ngaroi also crossed.
Pride Under 16s flogged United 52-20 in the Cyril Connell Cup.
MAL MENINGA CUP
NORTHERN PRIDE 32 (Bauz Harry 2, Samuel Pau, Samuel Asela, Jayden Gil, Johnstone Ngaroi tries; Samuel Pau 4 goals) def CENTRAL UNITED 24 (Emmanuel Kiddie 2, Jarrod Crook, Sam Burns tries; Kyle Laybutt 4 goals) at Callendar Park, Innisfail.
CYRIL CONNELL CUP
NORTHERN PRIDE 52 (Quinlyn Cannon 3, Michael Carroll 2, Jason Chapman, Dylan Parise, Malachi Songoro, Brandon Wyatte tries; Michael Carroll 4, Jake Clifford 4 goals) def CENTRAL UNITED 20 (Daniel Kirk 2, Cody Maughan, Lochie Qualischefski tries; Hayden Herbert 2 goals) at Callendar Park, Innisfail.