It took only one minute after a frustrating first half for the Norths Devils to find the groove that delivered them a comprehensive 30-18 Intrust Super Cup win over the PNG Hunters in Port Moresby today.
The Devils went to halftime down 0-12 despite having a breeze at their back and an expectation that they would add to the season of disappointment for the 13th-placed Hunters.
The Hunters had cashed in with tries from kicks in the 16th and 25th minutes, exciting the locals who had come out to the National Football Stadium on a warm July afternoon.
But coach Rohan Smith reminded his players that they needed the physical intent to match the home team and the Devils responded with a flurry of tries after the break.
Prop Riley Leota was on the end of a trademark Devils’ short-passing combination to score in the 41st minute before Kumuls international Nixon Putt gave the Hunters’ supporters mixed feelings when he gathered a sharp Troy Dargan kick to score three minutes later.
When skipper Jack Ahearn scored in the 49th minute, the Devils had stolen the lead and would never be headed.
The Hunters had one final blast when Brandon Nima scored in the 65th minute to close within two points but the Devils surged clear three minutes later when forward Brandon Lee was instrumental in a last-tackle option that led to Jamayne Taunoa-Brown’s second try in seven minutes.
Lee was among the Devils’ best today, helping to change the momentum of the game when he came off the bench after 30 minutes.
Ahearn grabbed his double in the 75th minute as the Devils improved their win-loss record to 11-5, leaving them in fifth place only five points behind Townsville Blackhawks on points differential.
The result was fitting for Zach Strasser, who played his 100th ISC match today. Strasser played most of those matches for Redcliffe but he has been an excellent addition for the Devils in the last two seasons and deserved today’s achievement.
The Devils return home tomorrow afternoon to prepare for Sunday’s home clash with Souths Logan Magpies in the Intrust Super Cup’s Indigenous Round.
NORTHS DEVILS 30 (Jamayne Taunoa-Brown 2, Jack Ahearn 2, Riley Leota, Nixon Putt tries, Connor Broadhurst 3 goals) d PNG HUNTERS 18 (Rau Junior Kobale, Nick Hasu, Brandon Nima tries, Ase Boas 2 goals, Hasu goal) at Oil Search National Football Stadium.