There can be few tougher ways to start an Intrust Super Cup campaign than on a 30+ degree afternoon against an Easts Tigers outfit looking for revenge; and it proved a bridge too far for the Northern Pride yesterday as they went down 20-12.
The opening 15 minutes at Tapout Energy Stadium were typical early season football, with the two teams feeling each other out and getting their respective new combinations working.
For the Tigers, Mahe Fonua was heavily involved early and looks to have added plenty of muscle over the off season. He used this to good effect, repeatedly coming in from the centres to go looking for the ball.
For the Pride, big Ben Spina was the standout in the opening exchanges and he was rewarded with the first try of the game when he crashed over with 13 minutes left in the half.
The game turned three minutes later when Tigers skipper Dane Hogan was helped off the field with what appeared to be a rib injury. His team responded courageously with Fonua powering over two minutes later to take the score to 6-4 to the Pride.
The home side finished the half on attack with the forwards starting to dominate the Pride pack. Young Storm-contracted props Christian Welch and Francis Tualau, in his first game for the Tigers, stood up well against the highly-regarded Pride pack.
With three minutes to go in the half, Shaun Nona showed a glimpse of his much vaunted playmaking skills, laying on a perfectly timed pass for Shane Neumann to score, helping the Tigers to a 10-6 lead at half time.
Easts started the second half as they had finished the first, attacking. With only five minutes gone Cameron Munster reminded everyone how dangerous a runner he is with a lovely break down the left edge, resisting the urge to take it too far and positioned Donald Malone on his outside.
This was no easy run in for Malone though, he had swarming defenders and the sideline to contend with but showed all of his experience to protect the ball and get it down safely to stretch the Tigers lead to 14-6.
Munster was to the fore again soon after as he collected a lovely pass from Joel Romelo and glided 30m down field before being confronted by his opposite Lachlan Coote. With no passing option available this time he produced a centring kick towards the unguarded Pride posts.
Hooker Tommy Butterfield was first on the scene, but was confronted by a most unenviable situation – a bouncing ball, goal post pads and when to try and touch the ball down? He waited, everyone in the stadium held their breath, then he touched the ball down, the referee pointed to the spot and Tigers supporters breathed again.
Nona landed his second conversion and the Tigers were out to a 20-4 lead.
For much of the remainder of the second half the game was a little flat as the heat and some early season rust took a toll on both sides.
There were plenty of errors and plenty of penalties; discipline will be a concern to both coaches as they both had players spend periods in the bin.
The Pride had the final say in the game as Patrick Kaufusi, who appeared to have suffered a leg injury in the first half coming back to score a try which Jordan Biondi-Odo converted to take the game to its final score of 20-12.
The Pride will be looking forward to their first home game of the season next Saturday night against the Sunshine Coast Falcons while the Tigers will make the familiar trek to BMD Kougari Oval for the local derby against Wynnum Manly.
EASTS TIGERS 20 (Donald Malone, Shane Neumann, Mahe Fonua, Tommy Butterfield tries; Shaun Nona 2 goals) def NORTHERN PRIDE 12 (Ben Spina, Patrick Kaufusi tries; Jordan Biondi-Ono 2 goals) at Tapout Energy Stadium (Langlands Park)
Easts Tigers: 1. Cameron Munster 2. Donald Malone 3. Shane Neumann 4. Mahe Fonua 5. Richie Kennar 6. Shaun Nona 7. Joel Romelo 8. Matthew Zgrajewski 9. Tommy Butterfield 10. Christian Welch 11. Dane Hogan (c) 12. Jake Foster 13. Troy Giess 14. Liam McDonald 15. Francis Tualau 16. Foisa Peni 18. Dean Britt
Northern Pride: 1. Lachlan Coote 2. Linc Port 3. Semi Tadulala 4. Hezron Murgha 5. Javid Bowen 6. Jordan Biondi-Odo 7. Sam Obst 8. Jack Svendsen 9. Jason Roos (c) 10. Ben Spina 11. Vaipuna Tia Kilifi 12. Graham Clark 13. Tom Hancock 14. Cameron King 15. Ryan Ghietti 16. Sheldon Powe-Hobbs 17. Patrick Kaufusi