Photo: Maria Girgenti
Northern Pride extended their lead at the top of the Intrust Super Cup with a gutsy 22-18 win against fellow high-fliers Tweed Heads Seagulls at Barlow Park yesterday.
The Pride shot out to an 18-6 half-time lead but were rocked by first-half game-ending injuries to Alex Starmer (ankle), Javid Bowen (ribs), and Ben Jeffries (arm).
But the 14 men left standing hung on bravely against a fast-finishing Seagulls outfit to stretch the hosts' lead at the summit to six points with just four rounds remaining.
It also brought an end to Tweed Heads' impressive 12-game Intrust Super Cup streak.
The Pride got off to the perfect start with two tries in the opening nine minutes.
First, young full-back Linc Port, playing only his second Pride game due to Hezron Murgha's hamstring injury, crossed close to the line to score his first try for the club.
And then Davin Crampton showed his brute strength as he muscled his way over, again on the left edge, to put Pride in the driving seat.
However the tide started to turn on 14 minutes when prop Starmer was stretchered down the tunnel with a serious-looking left leg injury.
And Tweed Heads took advantage four minutes later as interchange player Ayden Lee powered through a gap to reduce the arrears to 12-6.
But Pride are made of stern stuff and hit back immediately as halfback Sam Obst produced a darting, mazy run from 10m to extend the Pride's advantage.
Unfortunately for the hosts the injuries kept coming as Bowen and then interchange debutant Jeffries were both forced from the field before half-time.
This meant Pride would be down to 14 men for the entire second half and Tweed Heads sensed the Far North Queensland side's vulnerability.
The visitors started to play much more aggressively and Seagulls captain Matt King and Pride counterpart Jason Roos were both sent to the bin after a scuffle between both sides.
On 54 minutes, Pride looked to have put the game to bed as Crampton scored his second with a 60m intercept try to push the hosts' lead out to 22-6.
But this only served to inspire Tweed Heads as tries from back-rower Cory Blair and prop Damian Sironen set up a showdown finish.
Centre James Wood, who was dangerous all afternoon, twice went close for the Seagulls in the dying minutes.
But it was all in vain as Pride bravely held on and edged closer to their second straight minor premiership.
NORTHERN PRIDE 22 (Davin Crampton 2, Lincoln Port, Sam Obst tries; Shaun Nona 3 goals) def TWEED HEADS SEAGULLS 18 (Damian Sironen, Cory Blair, Ayden Lee tries; Jamal Fogarty 3 goals) at Barlow Park.
Northern Pride: 19. Ben Jeffries 2. Lincoln Port 3. Javid Bowen 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 20. Ethan Lowe 15. Jack Svendsen 16. Sheldon Powe-Hobbs 17. Tom Hancock
Tweed Heads Seagulls: 1. Jamal Fogarty 2. Blake Anderson 3. Luke Dumas 4. James Wood (c) 18. Steve Gillett 6. Sam Irwin 7. Michael Burgess 8. Pele Peletelese 9. Matt King (c) 10. Damian Sironen 11. Cory Blair 12. Chris Piper 13. Sam Saville 14. Ricardo Parata 15. Trent Richardson 16. Ayden Lee 17. Reg Saunders