A heavily depleted Easts has carved out a welcome 14-4 victory against the Northern Pride in Cairns, restricting one of the best attacking backlines in the competition to a solitary try.
Although the Tigers welcomed back Brodie Croft from the Melbourne Storm, they were without the injured trio of Billy Walters, Scott Drinkwater and David Tyrrell, and had hooker Brandon Smith and centre Young Tonumaipe’a on NRL duty.
Rebounding from a comprehensive loss at the hands of Redcliffe, the Tigers survived the second-longest roadtrip in the competition to beat a mistake-riddled Pride in humid conditions.
While Easts was far from perfect – failing to complete 15 of 36 sets in possession – the northerners were even worse, and had a completion rate of just 56 per cent.
It was a perplexing statistic, given the Pride not only boasted 216-game first grade veteran Todd Carney, but also benefited from the returns of NRL-graded Javid Bowen and Gideon Gela-Mosby.
Renowned speedster Gela-Mosby made his first fixture game appearance of the season after serving a five-game suspension for a shoulder charge that carried over from 2017.
Yet the Pride attack continually misfired, with boom half Jake Clifford having arguably his quietest game in a Pride jersey, and Carney coming up with a mixed bag.
Carney joined the North Queensland Cowboys for training during the week and managed to set up one first half try to Justin Castellaro through good vision.
He also peppered the Tigers with his kicking, completing two 40-20 kicks and forcing mistakes and compounding pressure at other times when he put boot to ball.
On the flipside however, he also had a couple of errant passes, and looked short of his former sizzling pace at times when he could have attacked the line.
While many eyes were on Tigers half Croft after his demotion from the Storm, it was teammates like Jarrod McInally, Patrick Kaufusi and Hastings Deering Man of the Match Kea Pere who shone brightest.
Pere was up against cousin Emry Pere and the 18-year-old continued to impress, notching the last try of the game after Easts led 10-4 at halftime.
Watching in the Channel Nine commentary box, former State of Origin great Scott Sattler said he gave Croft a “pass mark” for his performance.
“He’s under a lot of pressure and scrutiny and he’s had to swallow his pride in surely one of the toughest weeks of his career,” said Sattler.
“He took some good options and looked to take the line on.”
For the losing Pride side one bonus was the form of powerful lock Troy Kapea, who bent the line several times and was a bulldog in defence.
EASTS TIGERS 14 (Joe Bond, Conor Carey, Kea Pere tries; Brayden Torpy goal) def NORTHERN PRIDE 4 (Justin Castellaro try) at Barlow Park, Cairns.