Clifford leading the way
Lachlan Coote nabbed a try for Mackay, but Jake Clifford continued to be the most prolific player in this year’s Intrust Super Cup, as the Northern Pride beat Mackay 22-16.
Working his way back from persistent hamstring injuries, Coote pulled on the Cutters jersey for the first time at Barlow Park on Saturday night.
The 2015 NRL grand final winner soon found himself up against a challenge as the Pride ran in the first three tries of the match.
Clifford, last year’s Dally M National Youth Competition Player of the Year, dotted down for two of those on the way to an early 16-0 lead.
His two tries and three goals took him to 50 points so far this season, 14 points clear of both Wes Conlon (Ipswich) and Guy Hamilton (Souths Logan), with a further two points back to Kotoni Staggs (Redcliffe) and Jamal Fogarty (Burleigh).
Clifford is also, temporarily at least, the leading try-scorer in the competition with six tries, although two games remain in the round and perennial try whiz Daniel Ogden is still to play for Wynnum Manly.
More importantly however, the Northern Pride are guaranteed of at least finishing Round 4 in third place, and may possibly climb to second, depending on the outcome of Norths v Wynnum at Suncorp Stadium.
In contrast, Mackay is likely to finish the round among the bottom three, and may even anchor the ladder if Tweed Heads beats PNG in Port Moresby.
The Cutters were not completely blown out of the water by the Pride however, and a valiant late comeback put them within striking distance.
Indeed, Mackay threw caution to the wind to score the last three tries of the game and put themselves within a converted try with four minutes left on the clock.
That being said, conversions were not their forte and the match ended at four tries apiece, with the difference being Clifford’s three goals.
To make matters worse for visiting Mackay, dangerous hooker Josh Chudleigh was substituted off towards the end of the game, with fears he has reinjured his knee.
Next week the Northern Pride play the Ipswich Jets at North Ipswich Reserve at 3pm Saturday, while Mackay hosts the similarly spluttering Sunshine Coast Falcons at BB Print Stadium at 6pm Saturday.
NORTHERN PRIDE 22 (Jake Clifford 2, Brett Anderson, Shawn Bowen tries; Jake Clifford 3 goals) def MACKAY 16 (Yamba Bowie 2, Lachlan Coote, Jayden Hodges) at Barlow Park.