Norths Devils flexed their growing muscle tonight with a comprehensive 34-22 win over reigning Intrust Super Cup champions PNG Hunters at Bishop Park.
The Devils raced in six tries, spoiling a party for the PNG supporters revelling in the attendance of their Governor-General and members of their Commonwealth Games team.
The PNG supporters still roared when the Hunters scored twice in the last five minutes but the Devils had already put the game beyond doubt.
Norths were better than the Hunters across the ground, showing the positive signs that emerged in their three-game winning streak to start the season.
The Devils hit a hurdle last week when they were flat and muddled in a loss to Wynnum Manly.
But the team was determined to atone tonight, showing a crispness and discipline that propelled the Devils back into second place.
The Devils’ big men controlled the middle, providing halves Todd Murphy and Troy Dargan with the room to lead several damaging backline raids.
The impact was immediate with the Devils scoring in the fifth minute when fullback Jack Ahearn sent winger Chevi Ellis over in the right corner. The pair hit the replay button in the 36th minute with another try that drove the Devils to a 16-6 halftime lead.
“That was a pleasing win tonight. We were disciplined and we improved on some things,” devils coach Rohan Smith said.
“We had a good week of preparation and we carried that into the game. We defended well in yardage and conceded very few penalties. And we were able to execute in attack when the opportunities were there.”
Smith was relaxed at halftime, reminding his players to keep enjoying the contest against the typically spirited Hunters.
The visitors looked threatening at the start of the second half when Wartovo Puara scored under the posts, building on the pressure created when the Devils were forced into a dropout.
The Devils weathered the storm and then piled on three tries in 12 minutes.
Broncos forward Sam Tagataese – a prolific tryscorer in his Devils career – surged over after Norths had forced a PNG dropout.
Dangerous impact player Calum Gahan crossed from dummy-half eight minutes later and the game was sealed when the Broncos combination of Murphy and Dargan combined for a slick try in the 65th minute.
The Hunters never stopped trying and their two late tries narrowed the gap.
Tonight’s win sets up a much-anticipated clash at Bishop Park next Saturday night. The Devils and Burleigh will meet in a top-of-the-table clash.
Norths Devils 34 (Chevi Ellis 2, Michael Sio, Sam Tagataese, Calum Gahan, Todd Murphy tries, Murphy 5 goals) d PNG Hunters 22 (Moses Meninga, Wartovo Puara, Butler Morris, Edene Gebbie tries, Ase Boas 3 goals) at Bishop Park.