The Norths Devils returned from their Intrust Super Cup graveyard today, buoyed by a record-breaking win that underlined how far the club had progressed in two years.
Saturday night’s 62-14 demolition of the Northern Pride in Cairns sealed Norths’ first finals berth since 2012 and turned around the Devils’ dire run against the Pride.
No team had spooked the Devils like the Pride. Before this season, Norths had won only four of the 22 clashes between the teams. The 2010 grand final loss hurt the most.
But the Devils have twice defeated the Pride this season with a team rebuilt following coach Rohan Smith’s appointment at the end of 2017.
Not one member of the Devils team that played in Cairns in round 18 two years ago featured in last night’s 11-try thumping.
In their place was Smith’s up-tempo, innovative squad that stretched its win-loss record to 13-7 this season and ensured Norths would be a part of the top eight for next month’s finals.
In the change rooms after Saturday night’s match, the Devils spent little time pondering their finals achievement, instead talking about next Saturday night’s trip to Mackay to face the Cutters.
“It’s not easy to do two away trips in two weekends in this competition so we will need to be good against Mackay. They are always a tough team to beat,” Smith said.
“We still have three matches to go before the finals and no one thinks that making the finals is our main goal. We want to play for as long as we can this season.”
The Devils may be forced into changes for the Mackay trip if the Brisbane Broncos decide to recall Sean O’Sullivan and Herbie Farnworth to the NRL.
Farnworth broke the Devils’ record for most points in a single game with a 34-point haul from four tries and nine goals. He surpassed the 28 points scored previously by Marty Turner and Anthony Zipf.
Farnworth finished the game at fullback as Smith gave the teenager a positional switch with the Devils well in front, moving captain Jack Ahearn on to Farnworth’s left wing for the last minutes of his 99th Cup match.
O’Sullivan made a strong return from a hamstring injury, opening the Devils’ scoring with a try in the third minute. O’Sullivan and halves partner Troy Dargan caused constant problems for the Pride.
The Devils had impressive players across the field, springing off their previous win over the Ipswich Jets in which they had to claw back from a 0-10 deficit to hit the lead with only six minutes remaining.
Ahearn remarked after that match that it was first time Norths had been forced to grind out a win this season. The captain said he hoped that character test would pay dividends in the run to the finals.
The signs in Cairns were promising but Saturday night’s clash with Mackay will be another test in that progression.