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A blistering first half has helped propel the Redcliffe Dolphins back towards the Intrust Super Cup top five after they held on to defeat a fast-finishing Norths Devils 36-22 at Dolphin Oval on Sunday.
The Dolphins went into the sheds at half-time enjoying a 20-point lead over the Devils, although they had to earn the two competition points the hard way in the second stanza as Norths hooker Krys Freeman – son of former Kiwi halfback Gary Freeman – took it upon himself to help claw the Devils back into the contest with two second half tries.
Freeman's second try narrowed the Devils' deficit to eight points at 24-16 with eight minutes to go, however that was as close as the visitors would come as Redcliffe raced away with a six-tries-to-four victory.
Elsewhere in Round 11 a hat-trick to Kalifa Faifai Loa saw Tweed Heads upset Northern Pride 29-26 with Ipswich's convincing 36-14 win over Central Queensland earning them the outright competition lead after 11 rounds.
The PNG Hunters moved into outright third with a 32-22 win over Wynnum, Mackay's 22-12 win over Sunshine Coast was the Falcons' record 29th loss in succession while doubles to Cameron Munster and Hymel Hunt saw Easts Tigers defeat Souths Logan 28-24.
The Devils were first to cross in the ninth minute after skipper Brendon Gibb crashed over from close range to hand his side an early 4-0 lead.
It took the Dolphins less than three minutes to strike back when Sarafu Fatiaki scored next to the posts after receiving a neat short-ball from Zach Strasser to take the score to 6-4. The home side then extended their lead in the 20th minute when Stewart Mills steamed onto an inside ball and powered his way over the try-line, taking the score to 12-4.
Moments later, the Dolphins were in again through Martin Cordwell courtesy of a Strasser tackle-break and offload, enabling the prop to score next to the posts and further extend Redcliffe's lead to 14 points at 18-4 in the 23rd minute.
The Dolphins crossed for their fourth try just prior to half-time when Adrian Davis found Aaron Whitchurch and the former Bronco burrowed his way over the stripe to hand the home side a 24-4 lead heading into the break.
The second half started at a more subdued pace compared to the first as it took 18 minutes for first points to be posted. It was Krys Freeman who broke the second-half stalemate with a try from dummy-half to give Norths a sniff at 24-10 in the 58th minute.
After Freeman bagged his double the Dolphins started to look edgy, holding onto an eight-point lead with 14 minutes remaining. Although any fears the Dolphins had of letting their slip were soon alleviated when Cameron Cullen scored a dazzling solo try with eight minutes left, evading a handful of Devils' defenders to take the game out of reach.
A stubborn Norths refused to lie down and once again had the Dolphin Oval faithful biting at their fingernails when fullback Shaun Carney crossed underneath the posts to narrow the score to 30-22 with under four minutes remaining.
The Devils continued to throw the footy around in attempting to break through the dogged Redcliffe defence. They eventually resorted to a chip-and-chase, however Mills was on hand to scoop up the Steeden and race 60 metres to score the match-sealing try in the 79th minute, much to the delight of the loyal Dolphins' fans as the boys from the peninsula wrapped-up a 36-22 victory.
Redcliffe's fourth win of the season sees them move to 11 competition points on the Intrust Super Cup ladder, keeping them within striking distance of the Devils, who currently occupy fifth spot on 14 points.
Redcliffe Dolphins 36 (Stewart Mills 2, Aaron Whitchurch, Cameron Cullen, Sarafu Fatiaki, Martin Cordwell tries; Adrian Davis 5, Dwayne Duncan goals) def. Norths Devils 22 (Krys Freeman 2, Shaun Carney, Brendon Gibb tries; Troyden Watene 3 goals) at Dolphin Oval, Redcliffe. Half-time: Redcliffe 24-4.
For full results and ladder after Round 11 click here.