The Northern Pride continue their march towards the Intrust Super Cup minor premiership with a convincing 52-18 round 20 win over Norths Devils in Cairns.
It was also a good weekend for the Mackay Cutters who moved up another spot on the ladder by beating Souths Logan 24-22 at Stadium Mackay to remain in with a hope of playing finals football.
At Barlow Park, the hosts ran in nine tries – with back-rowers Blake Leary and Tyrone McCarthy both grabbing doubles – as they maintained their five-point lead at the top of the ladder.
It was the first time the Pride had reached the half-century mark this season.
With their four Queensland Residents players, and North Queensland Cowboys debutant Ben Spina, back in their lineup, the Pride ran in five tries in 17 first-half minutes.
Norths suffered a major blow on half time when Brisbane Broncos star Jack Reed – playing Intrust Super Cup due to a mid-week disciplinary breach – limped from the field with a serious-looking left ankle injury and failed to return for the second half.
But it would have mattered little to the final scoreline, as Pride went into the sheds 28-0 up at the break.
Tries to halfback Darren Nicholls and then winger Michael Lucas brought Norths back to just 16 down.
However, the Pride snuffed out any hopes of a comeback by hitting back immediately through Spina, before Kyle Feldt finished off a fine linebreak by Sam Obst on the hour mark.
Devils fullback Shaun Carney gave Norths fans something to cheer about on 66 minutes, but it was to be the last ray of sunshine for the dejected visitors.
On 72 minutes, Ricky Thorby crashed his way over from five metres out, and Leary pushed his team past 50 thanks to a neat side step helping him to his second try.
In Mackay, the Cutters managed to fight back from a 16-0 deficit to claim their fourth win in five matches.
Four tries in a row, including a double to Liam Taylor, allowed the reigning premiers to take a six-point lead into half time.
The second half was nothing like the first, with both sides ramping up the defensive pressure.
With 10 minutes remaining, Taylor calmly added a penalty goal to boost his side to an eight-point advantage that would prove to be the difference.
A second try to Luke Bateman six minutes from full time put the visitors within striking distance, however with the final seconds counting down, a Ben Jackson chip behind the Cutters’ line was grounded by Taylor, ending Souths’ hopes of back-to-back away victories.
NORTHERN PRIDE 52 (Blake Leary 2, Tyrone McCarthy 2, Kyle Feldt, Shaun Nona, Ben Spina, Davin Crampton, Ricky Thorby tries; Shaun Nona 8 goals) def NORTHS DEVILS 18 (Shaun Carney, Michael Lucas, Darren Nicholls tries; Darren Nicholls 3 goals) at Barlow Park.
MACKAY CUTTERS 24 (Liam Taylor 2, Chris Ulugia, Justin Tavae tries; Liam Taylor 4 goals) def SOUTHS LOGAN MAGPIES 22 (Luke Bateman 2, Jordan Rapana, Mitch Cronin tries; Jordan Rapana 3 goals) at Stadium Mackay.