The Northern Pride have taken another step towards a top six berth in the Intrust Super Cup with a stirring come-from-behind win over the Absolute Enterprises Mackay Cutters at BB Print Stadium.
The Northern derby was always going to be a tough affair, but the Cutters had a spring in their step as they headed out onto their home turf for the first time since April.
It was Mackay showing their hand early in the contest as scrappy play and ill-discipline from the Pride created two quality chances for first points for the home side, but the final execution was lacking as Josh Chudleigh and Cooper Bambling both squandered their scoring attempts close to the line.
However, with the pressure building, it seemed only a matter of time before the home side would strike. They finally managed to do so when they fooled the over-eager Pride defence on the last tackle with some lightning-quick passing out to winger Blake Atherton, who strolled over in the corner for the first try of the game.
Both teams were finding points hard to come by, but one moment of foul play was all it took to swing the pendulum back in the Cutters favour, with the Pride gifting the hosts a golden opportunity to post more points before halftime.
The Cutters certainly didn’t waste their chance either when Jack Creith came charging in from close range and somehow burrowed his way under several Pride defenders to get the ball down on the try line to extend the lead to 12 points, a lead the Cutters would take into the sheds at halftime.
Despite trailing at the break, the Pride could sense they were still well and truly in the contest and with the speed of their play beginning to take its toll on the Cutters, the visitors were soon making huge inroads up the middle of the field.
But it was the edges where the Pride found the most space. Sublime ball movement and raw speed saw the Pride register their first points of the night as Javid Bowen burst through a hole in the Cutters defence and streaked away, drawing in Liam Taylor and offloading to Ryan Ghietti who dotted down under the posts to half the deficit.
Still stunned from the first try, the Cutters found themselves even more shaken when Bowen latched onto a neat pass from the restarting kick off and flew down the left flank, his 60m charge halted by a textbook last ditch tackle from Taylor.
But with the Cutters defence still in utter disarray, it only took a few crisp passes for Colin Wilkie to scythe through Mackay’s goal line defence, levelling the game in a matter of seconds for the Pride.
The Cutters were desperately trying to keep the floodgates from opening, and a handling error from the Pride was just the ticket they needed to stem the flow.
A brilliant short ball from Delayne Ashby hit Joss Boyton on the chest as he cut back inside the sliding Pride defence, and Mackay were back in control at 18-12.
Entering the final phase of the game, the Pride stepped up their attacking assault, and it was devastating centre Bowen who crossed the stripe, latching onto a cut out pass and skirting the Cutters left edge defence to score.
The crucial conversion was waved away though and the Pride still found themselves trailing by two with time running out.
In the shadows of fulltime and the game up for grabs, it was Ghietti proving himself the difference maker for the Pride, with the five-eighth steaming in from close range and muscling his way over the try line, despite the Cutters best efforts to deny him, putting the Pride in front very late in the contest.
The Cutters had one final throw of the dice as time elapsed, but the ball went to ground as they looked to throw it wide and the Northern Pride’s comeback was officially complete, the final score 22-18.
NORTHERN PRIDE 22 (Ryan Ghietti 2, Colin Wilkie, Javid Bowen tries; Khan Ahwang 3 goals) def MACKAY CUTTERS 18 (Blake Atherton, Jack Creith, Joss Boyton tries; Liam Taylor 3 goals) at BB Print Stadium, Mackay.