The Northern Pride are the first team into this year’s Intrust Super Cup grand final after edging out Easts in their major semi-final clash at Barlow Park on Saturday.
A Shaun Nona penalty in the 60th minute was the decisive moment that handed the Pride an 8-7 win.
The win granted the Pride direct entry into this year’s decider at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday 28 September with a grand final appearance adding to their dominant year that saw them take out the minor premiership.
A strong Pride side, boosted by the last inclusion of Ben Spina (who made an unexpected return from a potentially season-ending hand injury) did just enough to put away a Tigers side missing key players including starting hooker Tom Butterfield (suspension), five eighth Jacob Fauid and arguably their most consistent player Dane Hogan (ribs).
Pride co-captain Brett Anderson opened the scoring in the sixth minute after Cowboys forward Ethan Lowe sliced between two Tigers defenders on the right hand side and gave Anderson a clear run to the try line.
Nona converted to give the Pride an early 6-0 lead.
Easts hit back in the 26th minute when fullback Cameron Munster set up Shane Neumann for their four-pointer.
Cody Walker added the extras and scores were locked at 6-all.
The rest of the half, as with much of the game, was an arm wrestle as both teams tried unsuccessfully to achieve dominance.
A Walker dropped goal with the half-time hooter sounding in the background gave the Tigers a 7-6 lead as the teams went to the sheds.
The only scoring in the second half came from a Nona penalty goal from 25 metres out.
“I said at the end of last season that we needed to be mentally tougher,” coach Jason Demetriou told the Cairns Post.
“We needed to learn to win tough games and we’ve done that several times this year now.
“These boys are hungry.”
Next weekend, the Tigers will host the Wynnum Manly Seagulls at Langlands Park in the preliminary final, while the Pride will watch with interest to see who will be their grand final challenger.
NORTHERN PRIDE 8 (Brett Anderson try; Shaun Nona 2 goals) def EASTS TIGERS 7 (Shane Neumann try; Liam Tyson goal; Cody Walker field goal) at Barlow Park.