The Mackay Cutters have entered “must win” time in the Intrust Super Cup after their premiership defence took another hit on Sunday.
The reigning champions lost 22-14 against Easts at Langlands Park in Brisbane to drop eight points adrift of the top five.
Their finals chances will be as good as over if they can’t beat Wynnum-Manly away on Saturday night.
After scoring on their first set of possession, the Cutters weren’t able to cross Easts’ line again until well into the second half, with the result decided thanks to two quick Tigers tries with 15 minutes left.
Cowboys winger Curtis Rona crossed for Mackay in his return to the ISC after playing in the NRL clash against Canberra a week earlier.
It’s a much more positive outlook for the Northern Pride, however, after they regained the outright competition lead thanks to a 24-22 win against Redcliffe and Ipswich’s 26-20 loss to Wynnum.
The Pride’s Davin Crampton continued his prolific try-scoring run since returning to the back-row by bagging a first-half double.
Cowboys forward Joel Riethmuller also scored as the Cairns-based team took an 18-6 lead into the half-time break.
Tries to Dolphins wingers Oliver Regan and Liam Georgetown cut into the lead before Jason Roos set up Ben Spina for what looked to be the match-sealer.
However, there was another twist as Jon Green barged over for Redcliffe to reduce the margin to two and the Pride were forced to hang on in the dying stages to secure their 10th win of the year.
“We have been a bit ordinary on our travels so it was pleasing to get the win,” coach Jason Demetriou told the Cairns Post.
“Away from home the last couple of times the boys dropped their heads a little bit. But this time the boys showed what it means to them to try and win this competition.
“Even in the second half when everything seemed to be going their way they kept showing up for one another.”
NORTHERN PRIDE 24 (Davin Crampton 2, Ben Spina, Joel Riethmuller tries; Shaun Nona 4 goals) def REDCLIFFE DOLPHINS 22 (Oliver Regan 2, Liam Georgetown, Jon Green tries; Adrian Davis 3 goals) at Dolphin Oval.
EASTS TIGERS 22 (Hymel Hunt, Dane Hogan, Tim Glasby, Jacob Fauid tries; Donald Malone 3 goals) def MACKAY CUTTERS 14 (Liam Taylor, Justin Tavae, Curtis Rona tries; Liam Taylor goal) at Langlands Park.