The PNG Hunters suffered their 12th loss for the season, with the Northern Pride emerging convincing 34-14 winners in a high-scoring affair at Barlow Park on Sunday.
The clash shaped as a must-win match for both sides, with both the Pride and Hunters struggling to stay in touch with the top eight this season.
It was the PNG Hunters who made the most of the sunny conditions first, with experienced half Ase Boas slicing through some flimsy Pride defence, before then getting a pass away to second rower Daniel Tapol pushing up in support.
A strong run from Cowboys centre Javid Bowen drew a penalty for his side, and it didn’t take long for them to expose some soft Hunters defence, when exciting five-eighth Jordan Biondi-Odo showed some great vision by throwing a lovely short pass to rampaging forward Peter Hola, who crashed over in the seventh minute.
Biondi-Odo then knocked over the extras to make it 6-4 to the Pride.
A continued lack of discipline from the Hunters gifted the Pride good field position, and they were sure to make them pay, when debutant Cephas Chinfat sliced through with his first major touch in the Intrust Super Cup to give his side a 10-4 lead in the 13th minute.
After receiving six straight penalties in the first 30 minutes of the match, the Hunters continued to put themselves under pressure in the first half; and the Pride made them pay when David Murphy crashed over.
Biondi-Odo added the extras in the 24th minute and then knocked over a penalty goal from right in front only moments before halftime, to give his side a convincing 18-4 lead going into the break.
A late-shot gifted the Hunters back-to-back penalties, who then made the most of their wealth of possession, with Shane Nigel picking up the scraps from a Boas pass to go in untouched in the 50th minute.
That was where the joy ended for the Hunters however, with the Pride continuing their dominance in the second half.
A kick from the Hunters that rolled dead gifted the Pride a seven-tackle set, and they were quick to make them pay in the 56th minute, when Bradley Stephen strolled over to give his side a 22-8 lead.
With both side playing expansive footy in the second half, it was the Pride who continued to show their brilliance in attack, when Bowen latched onto a lovely chip kick from in-form five-eighth Biondi-Odo to give their side an almost unassailable 28-8 lead – with Biondi-Odo yet again adding the extras.
Biondi-Odo capped off his dominant afternoon with a try of his own, as well as yet another conversion in the 73rd minute to extend the Pride’s lead.
Keven Appo crossed for a late consolation try in the 77th minute for the Hunters, but it was ultimately a dominant performance from the Pride who ran out 34-14 winners.
Hardworking forward Tom Hancock took out the game’s Hasting Deering Man of the Match award, thanks to yet another dominant performance from the Northern Pride leader.
Hunters will face the Norths Devils at Oil Search National Football Stadium this weekend.