Photo: Maria Girgenti
Northern Pride continued their march towards the Intrust Super Cup minor premiership with a convincing 52-18 Round 20 win over Norths Devils in Cairns.
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, as they flexed their muscles on a hot July afternoon at The Jungle.
Norths suffered a major blow on half-time when Brisbane Broncos star Jack Reed – playing Intrust Super Cup due to a midweek 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, and then continued to show their attacking prowess after the interval.
Pride began the game with the return of their four Queensland Residents players, and North Queensland Cowboys debutant Ben Spina, and five tries in 17 first-half minutes reflected their dominance.
On 14 minutes, Residents stars Shaun Nona and Leary again combined on the left edge, the latter crossing for the first score after a perfectly-timed Nona short pass.
A quickfire double to inspirational Ireland international McCarthy gave the Pride a strong advantage, before Davin Crampton extended the hosts’ lead, finishing off a 60m bust by Javid Bowen and Hezron Murgha.
Nona deservedly collected his try shortly afterwards to continue the rampage, and Pride were suddenly 28-0 up after 31 minutes.
Despite Norths losing the injured Reed, the Brisbane-based side showed great spirit during the next 20 minutes, as they stemmed the Pride tide and then briefly threatened a remarkable comeback.
First, halfback Darren Nicholls scored three minutes into the second-half and then winger Michael Lucas scored in the left-corner to make the score 28-12.
However, Pride snuffed out any hopes of a comeback by hitting back immediately through Spina, before Kyle Feldt finished off a fine line break 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, and Leary put the icing on the cake three minutes later, a neat side step helping him to his second try and pushing Pride past the half-century mark.
Nona was superb with the boot, landing eight conversions, while McCarthy was outstanding in the back row for the hosts.
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.
Northern Pride: 1. Hezron Murgha 2. Javid Bowen 3. Brett Anderson (c) 22. Kyle Feldt 5. Semi Tadulala 6. Shaun Nona 7. Sam Obst 8. Ben Spina 9. Jason Roos (c) 10. Alex Starmer 11. Blake Leary 12. Tyrone McCarthy 13. Davin Crampton 14. Ryan Ghietti 20. Ricky Thorby 16. Sheldon Powe-Hobbs 21. Latu Fifita
Norths Devils: 1. Shaun Carney 2. Michael Lucas 3. Joel Bailey 4. Tristan Lumley 5. Rogan Dean 19. Jack Reed 7. Darren Nicholls 8. Mark Vaiao 9. Krys Freeman 10. Brendon Gibb (c) 11. Chris Faust 12. Jai Ingram 13. James Sharkie 14. Sam Foster 15. Troyden Watene 16. Nathan Lowrie 17. Byron Creighton