The Norths Devils scored three tries in eight minutes to topple the Townsville Blackhawks 30-22 at Bishop Park tonight, stretching their unbeaten start to the Intrust Super Cup season.
The Devils dug deep, trailing 12-22 with 13 minutes remaining before unleashing the type of play that brought another big crowd to Bishop Park on Ladies’ Day.
Brendan Frei crossed in the 67th minute and Ethan Bullemor powered through the middle of the Blackhawks five minutes later before captain Jack Ahearn brought the home crowd to its feet with a 75th minute try.
It was the Devils’ third win from as many games this season and they seized the top spot on the ladder that the Blackhawks had brought to Bishop Park. Wynnum Manly moved into top spot on points differential a few minutes later with a win in Cairns as the Seagulls and Devils remained the only unbeaten teams.
The Devils played in the memory of two Norths legends lost in the last week – premiership forward Bob Duncan and former coach Tommy Raudonikis.
A moment’s silence for both men preceded a much-anticipated clash that delivered with a energetic start that flowed from end to end. The Blackhawks made the first bust – a try to fullback Josh Hoffman in the 18th minute gave them a 6-0 lead.
But the Devils finished the half strongly, again featuring their two regular try-scorers this season.
Hooker Danny Levi crossed from dummy half in the 31st minute for his third try before Frei crashed through the Blackhawks’ right-edge defence to register the first of his two tries. He now leads the competition with five tries.
“We wanted to play well knowing that we were playing with a few former Devils legends on our shoulders so it was pleasing that we could win that way,” coach Rohan Smith said.
“We played good team footy tonight. We were calm, resilient and persistent so we can keep building on that.”
Tonight’s win brought back memories of a Devils’ home victory over Redcliffe three years ago when they trailed 4-18 before storming home for a 28-20 win.
Before Smith became coach, the Devils had never beaten the Blackhawks. They have now won three straight against the Townsville team but that winning streak was under pressure midway through the second half.
The Devils fell behind when the Blackhawks crossed through Carlin Anderson (46th minute) and Esan Marsters (56th and 60th minutes).
But with the large contingent of ladies cheering them on from their function in the Devils’ Lair, Norths powered home.
Bullemor’s try revived memories of a night when he split the Blackhawks at Bishop Park almost two years ago to the day for a 60m sprint to the line. He showed his speed again tonight for a try that stole the lead back for Norths.
The celebrations began when Ahearn, playing excellent football, latched on to a sharp pass from Leivaha Pulu to score in front of the rowdy hill with five minutes to go.
“That was a tough, hard game – they always are against the Blackhawks,” Ahearn said.
“It’s been a good start but we know we have a lot of work ahead of us so we’ll get ready for another tough game next week.”
The Devils travel to Davies Park next Sunday to meet Souths Logan Magpies in Rivalry Round while the Blackhawks host the Northern Pride on Saturday night.
NORTHS DEVILS 30 (Brendan Frei 2, Danny Levi, Ethan Bullemor, Jack Ahearn tries, Tyson Gamble five goals) bt TOWNSVILLE BLACKHAWKS 22 (Esan Marsters 2, Josh Hoffman, Carlin Anderson tries, Shaun Nona 2 goals, Anderson goal) at Bishop Park.
Photo by Alan Drinnen.