The Northern Pride retained top spot on the Intrust Super Cup ladder by beating Mackay Cutters 22-18 in the first North Queensland derby of 2014 in Cairns on Saturday night.
The Cairns team had to survive a late rally from the Cutters, who scored twice in the last five minutes but didn’t leave themselves with any time to chase a third to end their seven-game hoodoo at Barlow Park.
One of 11 North Queensland Cowboys in the two lineups, fullback Zac Santo touched down a kick ahead to bring Mackay back to within eight and he then laid on a try in the corner for winger Liam Taylor that narrowed the difference by four more.
But time ran out on the Cutters, who had their two-game winning streak halted to leave them stuck in 11th position on the ladder.
Cowboys back-rower John Asiata scored Mackay’s first two tries, with his second, a spin and run to the line in the second half to bring his team to within two points, needing much more skill and determination than the first when all he had to do was clean up a high ball spilled by Pride fullback Davin Crampton.
It was a neat Robert Lui short pass to Ben Spina that started the scoring for the home team and fellow Cowboy Ethan Lowe ensured the Pride led at half time when he did all the work for a try near the posts just before the siren.
They probably should have led by more with Javid Bowen blowing four points when he was too casual with a put down in the in-goal and his teammates were twice held up over the line.
In a dour second half, a solo try from dummy-half by Jason Roos with 10 minutes left followed shortly after by a four-pointer to Blake Leary, both converted by Kyle Feldt, looked to have made the game completely safe for the Pride until their defence leaked those two tries near the end.
Joel Riethmuller and Anthony Mitchell, who suffered a nasty head gash in the first half, both returned to the Intrust Super Cup after playing for North Queensland against Parramatta last weekend.