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North Queensland heavyweights face off in Cyril Connell derby

It will be a battle between two North Queensland rivals when Northern Pride host Townsville Blackhawks in Round 2 of the Cyril Connell Challenge this weekend.

Pride were able to sit back and relax in Round 1 and now have the chance to put their pre-season work into action for their first match of the season.

Coach Chris Sheppard said he had prepared accordingly while waiting for their season to kick off.

“We knew that we wouldn’t be playing Round 1, so it hasn’t put us ahead or behind... it’s just the way it is for this competition,” Sheppard said.

“Townsville will be strong, we know that and they certainly performed very well against the Cutters who are a great team.

“We have some players that I think will surprise some people; Jace Williams our lock, and Anthony Williams our winger I think will be strong for us.”

The Blackhawks conquered their counterparts down the Bruce Highway last week with a high-scoring 30-28 win in Mackay.

Defying football logic with only 44 percent of the ball, they got the win thanks to two tries by captain Jamal Shibasaki.

Blackhawks coach Nathan Norford will be looking to improve that fact this week against the Pride.

“We only had 10 sets in the first half compared to their 19, so we did really well to defend that and it be 18-18 at half-time,” Norford said.

“By the end of the game, it ended up even so we did our best to defend that and then come back with points."

After taking part in a stop-start game last week, the Blackhawks will aim to improve their discipline with 34 missed tackles and nine penalties ruled against them.

“It’s a big learning curve for our players. They haven’t played any football like this before, so Round 1 was their first exposure," Norford said.

“Against the Pride, we will be trying to get that completion rate up.

“We know they will be strong and I don’t think the week off will have any impact it will be a good northern battle.”

This weekend, all other teams will have a bye and be back in action for Round 3.

Main image: Marty Strecker Photography

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