THE QCCS Mackay Cutters have produced one of their proudest performances of the season, defeating the Norths Devils 32-24 and all but wiping out their finals hops in a high-scoring affair at BB Print Stadium.
In a match where points were being scored almost at will, the lowly Cutters held their nerve in a highly entertaining shootout against a Devils outfit with their Intrust Super Cup finals aspirations hanging in the balance.
With a month of hard-fought football under their belts, Cooper Bambling ensured the hosts would be playing from in front on this night, catching the Devils defence off guard close to the try line after a sneaky offload trundled out the back of a three-on-one tackle and into his waiting arms.
Jayden Batchelor kept the momentum going for the Cutters as they turned pressure into points, forcing a dropout then stretching Norths' defence to breaking point as quick ball movement saw him scoring out wide on the left flank for a 10-point lead.
Mackay continued to poke holes in the opposition defence, a line-break straight down the middle of the park had the Devils defence in disarray, Kurt Wiltshire capping off the movement down Norths' vulnerable left flank after a neat cut-out pass from his inside man.
The Devils finally sparked themselves into action midway through the first stanza, power running getting them across the line through big John Palavi, before a beautiful wrap-around play out to the left edge saw Troy Dargan link with Jack Ahearn to close the margin to just two points heading into halftime.
The buffer would evaporate instantly coming out of the break; the Devils hitting the lead in the opening minute of the second half as second-phase play kept the Cutters on their heels until Riley Leota muscled his way across to score.
But a plethora of handling errors would see the Devils rapidly become their own worst enemy, Mackay punishing the mistakes in quick succession as Jordan Grant and Kyle Laybutt added their names to the score sheet to give the hosts a crucial eight-point lead heading into the final quarter of the contest.
A last tackle grubber kick to the corner was handled perfectly by Norths winger Paul Ulberg as he dotted down inches from the sideline to set up a tense finish, but Mackay would stand tall in the closing stages to the delight of their long-suffering home fans, Bennett Leslie latching onto a deflected grubber kick to the in-goal to seal a morale-boosting Cutters victory.
MACKAY CUTTERS 32 (Cooper Bambling, Jayden Batchelor, Kurt Wilshire, Jordan Grant, Kyle Laybutt, Bennett Leslie tries; Kyle Laybutt 4 goals) def NORTHS DEVILS 24 (John Palavi, Jack Ahearn, Riley Leota, Paul Ulberg tries; Todd Murphy 4 goals) at BB Print Stadium.