Easts Tigers have ended the Northern Pride’s seven-game Intrust Super Cup winning streak with a hard-fought 16-4 win in their round 7 catch-up game in Mareeba on Saturday night.
Fijian flyer Marika Koroibete, who recently signed for Easts Tigers NRL affiliate club the Melbourne Storm Wests Tigers, proved the difference, scoring a hat-trick on his Tigers debut.
The result saw Easts leap into second spot on the Intrust Super Cup ladder, while leaders Pride still hold a five-point advantage with all sides now having played 18 games.
It was a brave display from the Pride, with first-half injuries to centre Justin Castellaro and back rower Jack Svendsen leaving the hosts with just two men on the bench from the half-hour mark.
They were already without their Queensland Residents representatives David Crampton, Shaun Nona and Blake Leary, as well as Ben Spina who was called up to make his NRL debut for the North Queensland Cowboys.
Menmuny Murgha replaced Castellaro, and by joining Hezron Murgha on the park, it meant the two Yarrabah products became only the second set of brothers to play for the Pride after Chris and Steve Sheppard.
After Castellaro’s injury, it got worse for the Barlow Park club three minutes later when Koroibete showed the kind of power and poise that gave him 12 tries from his first 16 NRL games with the Wests Tigers.
The Fijian picked up the ball on the left wing and darted outside, then in to beat the rushing Pride defence.
On 19 minutes, Koroibete then produced almost a carbon copy of his first score to give the visitors a surprise 12-0 lead.
A fiery interchange between Pride winger Kyle Feldt and Easts interchange Joel Romelo led to both players being sent to the sin bin.
It was Easts who looked to have coped better with 12 men as Hezron Murgha misjudged a long kick two minutes before half time, allowing a flying Koroibete to touch down and complete his hat-trick.
Pride came out with renewed vigour in the second-half and dominated possession and territory, but it took some brave defence from Easts to hold them at bay, at one point defending six straight sets of six.
With 15 minutes left, Easts’ Jacob Ling was the third player to head to the bin, this time for repeated holding down at the play of the ball.
But the Tigers continued to show bravery in defence in the closing stages, and held on during a scoreless second-half for a vital two points.
EASTS TIGERS 16 (Marika Koroibete 3 tries; Donald Malone 2 goals) def NORTHERN PRIDE 4 (Brett Anderson try) at Davies Park, Mareeba.