EASTS Tigers ended 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 last night.
The game, which was originally postponed from April due to Tropical Cyclone Ita, was aptly a stormy affair, with three sin binnings, injuries and a few scuffles between the two finals-chasing sides.
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 backrower Jack Svendsen leaving the hosts with just two men on the bench from the half-hour mark.
In front of a big Davies Park crowd, Pride suffered their first blow on seven minutes when Castellaro limped off with a serious-looking leg injury.
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 which 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 onrushing 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.
Pride slowly started to work their way back into the game after those early disappointments, with record try scorer Brett Anderson reducing the deficit on 25 minutes after some neat offloading.
However, the home side suffered another huge setback as Svendsen hobbled off the park with a right knee injury on 30 minutes to leave the Pride with 15 players to finish the game.
A fiery interchange between Pride winger Kyle Feldt and Easts interchange Joel Romelo led to both players being sent to the sin bin.
And it was Easts who looked to have coped better with 12 men, as Pride fullback 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 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.
Northern Pride: 1. Hezron Murgha 22. Kyle Feldt 3. Justin Castellaro 4. Brett Anderson (c) 5. Semi Tadulala 6. Ryan Ghietti 7. Sam Obst 18. Menmuny Murgha 9. Jason Roos (c) 10. Alex Starmer 21. Latu Fifita 12. Tyrone McCarthy 13. Tom Hancock 14. Jordon Biondi-Odo 15. Jack Svendsen 16. Sheldon Powe-Hobbs 17. PJ Webb
Easts Tigers: 1. Cameron Munster 2. Eddie Tautali 3. Jarrod McInally 4. Donald Malone 5. Marika Koroibete 6. Jacob Fauid 7. Liam Tyson 8. Steven Thorpe (c) 9. Tom Butterfield 10. Kenny Bromwich 18. Tim Glasby 12. Troy Giess 13. Jacob Ling 14. Liam McDonald 15. Foisa Peni 16. Matthew Zgrajewski 17. Joel Romelo