Norths shot a warning across the Intrust Super Cup tonight when they outplayed Burleigh Bears in a top-of-the-table showdown at Bishop Park.
The Devils’ 20-4 win came after they weathered six consecutive penalties against them – including three in front of their posts – while trailing the unbeaten Bears in the first half. The Devils’ excellent defence and mistakes and injuries for the Bears turned the game. The Devils built a 6-4 halftime lead into an impressive win as their new halves combination Todd Murphy and Troy Dargan took advantage of their forwards’ grit. The win stamped the rebuilt Devils as an emerging team.
Before tonight’s clash, bookmakers still rated them unlikely to make the finals despite their impressive 4-1 win-loss record. New coach Rohan Smith has brought together an overhauled team that is still forming its combinations.
Some wobbling attacking sets were a sign that Norths have a long way to go despite the early wins. “There is a long way to go for us because it’s only early in the season but we toughed it out tonight particularly when we had some penalties go against us,” Smith said. “It was one of those nights when we had to stay calm to win that game. We bombed a try and it wasn’t always pretty but we managed to overcome an early deficit and win.”
Burleigh opened the scoring in the third minute when winger Brenko Lee crossed in the left corner. But the visitors didn’t score another point. Bears five-eighth Dallas Wells was injured in the first half and took no further part in the game, adding to an injury count that has affected the Bears despite their slick start to the season. “I was proud of our guys. We hung in there given that we gave them as much ball as we did and they scored three tries from kicks,” Bears coach Jimmy Lenihan said. “We certainly didn’t play well but our effort never lacked.”
The Devils took until the 35th minute to score their first points when prop Oshae Tuiasau pounced on a kick from Dargan close to the line. Norths finished strongly in the second half, edging to 12-4 when interchange prop Iain Riccardi scored his first try for the Devils from a dummy-half kick by Calum Gahan.
Fullback Jack Ahearn was rewarded for his persistence in attack when he crossed in the 64th minute and a 72nd minute penalty goal by Murphy added to the scoreline.
The Devils lost the penalty count 11-8 including the six consecutive penalties between the 18th and 29th minutes when they were forced to defend their line.
Norths faces another test next weekend with a clash against the Blackhawks in Townsville while the Bears travel to Kougari Oval to play Wynnum Manly in the televised game on Saturday afternoon.
Norths Devils 20 (Oshae Tuiasau, Iain Riccardi, Jack Ahearn tries; Todd Murphy four goals) d Burleigh Bears 4 (Brenko Lee try) at Bishop Park.