THE Northern Pride maintained their lead at the top of the Intrust Super Cup ladder, but only after a nervy 22-18 win over North Queensland rivals Mackay Cutters at Barlow Park last night.
The hosts looked to be cruising to another two points when they led by 22-8 with just three minutes left on the clock.
But late tries from Cutters backs Zac Santo and Liam Taylor got the alarm bells ringing, and the Pride only just held on to the delight of a vociferous home crowd.
The Pride started the XXXX Rivalry Round 10 derby in fine style, with forward Ben Spina crashing over from close range with just seven minutes gone.
They should have extended their lead during a dominant first 30 minutes, crossing the white stripe three times without scoring – twice being held up and once being called back for a forward pass.
And Mackay took advantage of Pride’s wastefulness as interim fullback Davin Crampton spilled a high ball and Cutters backrower John Asiata picked up the loose ball to score.
The Pride hit back just before the break as Ethan Lowe spun out of two tackles and stretched superbly to ground the ball on the line and give his side a 10-4 lead at the interval.
However, Mackay came out in the second half with much more purpose, and driven forward by the inspirational Anthony Mitchell, soon scored again through Asiata.
A tense battle ensued as both sides tried to keep mistakes to a minimum, but the dam finally broke when Pride co-captain Jason Roos and Blake Leary scored two quick tries to set up a 22-8 lead for the home side.
But Mackay weren’t ready to throw in the towel, and Santo finished off a Cutters break with three minutes left.
Taylor then scored in the right corner with just seconds left on the clock, but it was to be the last play of the game as the hooter sounded at the end of a memorable clash.
As part of the XXXX Rivalry Round between the two clubs, it was the Pride which lifted the annual Queensland Country Health Fund Cup.
NORTHERN PRIDE 22 (Ben Spina, Ethan Lowe, Jason Roos, Blake Leary tries; Kyle Feldt 3 goals) def MACKAY CUTTERS 18 (John Asiata 2, Zac Santo, Liam Taylor tries; Liam Taylor goal).
1. Davin Crampton 22. Semi Tadulala 3. Brett Anderson (c) 4. Javid Bowen 5. Kyle Feldt 6. Robert Lui 7. Sam Obst 20. Ricky Thorby 9. Jason Roos (c) 10. Alex Starmer 11. Ethan Lowe 12. Tyrone McCarthy 13. Ben Spina 14. Cameron King 15. Blake Leary 16. Joel Riethmuller 21. Latu Fifita
1. Zac Santo 2. Liam Taylor 3. Tyson Martin (c) 4. Josh Benjamin 19. Doug Hewitt 6. Brent Warr 7. Tom Rouse 8. Sam Hoare 9. Anthony Mitchell 10. Karl Davies 11. John Asiata 12. Chris Gesch 13. Kelvin Nielsen 14. Aleki Falepaini 15. Rohan Ahern 17. Mitch Day 18. Dave Petersen 19. Doug Hewitt 20. Andy Gay