Sam Tagataese delivered when it mattered most as the Norths Devils snatched a thrilling Intrust Super Cup clash from the Easts Tigers at Langlands Park tonight.
Tagataese’s 77th minute try, followed by a pinpoint conversion by halfback Todd Murphy, propelled the Devils to an 18-16 triumph.
Murphy’s sideline conversions from earlier in the match were crucial as the Devils overcame a lack of field position and possession – and the presence of Melbourne Storm halfback Brodie Croft – to win their sixth game from eight matches.
Tagataese returned to Bishop Park this year after a long absence but his try-scoring feats in the sky blue and gold were well known. He had scored 20 tries in his 24 appearances for the Devils before his return this season.
He found a hole on the left edge of a tiring Tigers’ defence after the Devils had forced a turnover from the home team in a frantic final few minutes. Close games are made up of crucial moments and there were plenty tonight – the Devils forced a turnover when Easts looked certain to score in the 69th minute.
But a 20th minute try to impressive young winger Herbie Farnworth turned the tide in a game that Easts had dominated through timely penalties and Devils’ mistakes.
With Norths trailing 0-12, Murphy placed a kick towards the right corner and Farnworth left his Easts’ opponent standing, spearing around him to score a superb try.
The teenager paid a heavy price – he suffered another injury to the same hand he broke in the first round and did not return to the field in the second half. The Devils edged back to 12-all when comeback winger Namila Davui crossed from a Jack Ahearn pass in the 34th minute.
Devils fans will recognise that as a special moment – Davui was a member of the 2010 grand final team and had not played football since 2014. But the 36-year-old decided he wanted to play again this season, recovering from a strained hamstring in the second trial match to reignite his top grade career for the Devils.
The Devils were behind again in the 57th minute when the Tigers scored in the left corner, cashing in on a knock-on and a repeat set. But the Devils were defiant in the closing minutes, repeating the come-from-behind performance at Souths a month ago to stay in the top four on the ladder.
“Easts started well with their classy halves and they got the jump on us but I really liked the way we stayed composed,” Devils coach Rohan Smith said. “That second half was a very tough battle. We stayed calm and then we cracked the line. And it was a cracking kick from Murph. “I really liked the way we waited for our chance. We always feel as though we can find a try when we need it.”
Norths Devils 18 (Herbie Farnworth, Namila Davui, Sam Tagataese tries; Todd Murphy three goals) d Easts Tigers 16 (Cheyse Blair, Linc Port, Jake Foster tries, Brayden Torpy two goals) at Langlands Park.