Clifford fires for Pride as Blackhawks crash
Jake Clifford continued to star, while halves partner Todd Carney returned, as the Northern Pride thumped premiership favourites Townsville Blackhawks 26-6 on Saturday.
While all the attention was on Carney leading into the 2018 season, halfback Clifford has been the one earning rave reviews for his influential play.
He now leads the competition for individual points scored, bagging two tries and five goals in the away clash against the Blackhawks.
The 20-year-old Tully Tigers junior was the Dally M Player of the Year in the National Youth Competition last year, following in the footsteps of Ben Hunt, Ash Taylor and Bryce Cartwright.
The Pride travelled to Townsville with a lamentable record against the Blackhawks, having lost all six games between the two sides.
However, history was cast asunder as the Pride led from start to finish, with the game ending under heavy rainfall.
A 12-6 halftime scoreline was the closest Townsville came to stretching the visitors.
Their solitary try came from five-eighth Jaelen Feeney, a former Newcastle Knights NRL player who has also had an impressive start to the season.
Not named earlier in the week, Carney returned from a back strain that saw him miss Round 2, bolstering the Northern Pride squad.
He played solidly and was in the thick of the action in the lead-up to several tries.
The loss for Townsville follows a last-start defeat at the hands of Ipswich, and will see them slip towards the bottom half of the ladder, despite a commanding 56-12 win over Mackay to start the season.
Many betting agents had Townsville as short-priced favourite for the premiership only a fortnight ago, with the Northern Pride at significantly longer odds.
NORTHERN PRIDE 26 (Jake Clifford 2, Murray Tualagi, Darryn Schonig tries; Jake Clifford 5 goals) def TOWNSVILLE BLACKHAWKS 6 (Jaelen Feeney try; Carlin Anderson goal) at Jack Manski Oval.