The Norths Devils listened to stories of war service and sacrifice before they withstood a tropical downpour on a winning Anzac weekend visit to Cairns.
The Devils dug deep last night to extend their unbeaten start to the Intrust Super Cup season, edging Northern Pride 13-12 in steady rain at Barlow Park.
Bryce Donovan delivered a memorable field goal in the 79th minute when his dropkick from 30 metres out floated towards the left upright before gliding between the posts, bringing roars of relief from a Devils team that had fought hard.
Earlier in the night, the Devils celebrated the first win of their Hastings Deering Colts season with a 42-16 victory against the Pride. The Devils scored eight tries to three before the rain moved in.
Both Devils squads arrived in Cairns at lunchtime on Saturday and heard stories of the impact of war service on the club and its players.
The sacrifice of 1938 premiership winger Jim Diversi – who was killed while serving in the Second World War – and the heroism of some of his former clubmates were recalled.
By 1940, the Devils had fielded 72 players across their first eight seasons. A total of 28 of those men would serve their country in the Second World War and three would lose their lives.
Colts twins Zak and Michael McGuire spoke movingly to the playing group about the meaning of Anzac Day to their family with generations serving their country. A few hours later, Zak scored two tries for the Devils.
The McGuires, teammates and coaching staff from both Devils teams joined in a moving dawn service as the rain continued in Cairns this morning.
Last night, the Last Post was played before the start of the Devils-Pride Intrust Super Cup clash on a playing surface that held up remarkably well after the deluge in Cairns over the last week.
The Devils were hunting a 5-0 start to the season minus some of the players who featured in last week’s impressive win over Souths Logan Magpies. Danny Levi, Brendan Frei, Brendan Piakura and Rhys Kennedy were missing from that team, creating opportunities for the wider Devils squad.
Norths dominated early, surging to a 6-0 lead when forward Ben Nakubuwai scored from a pass from hooker Calum Gahan.
But this wasn’t going to be an easy night and the Devils would have to rely on their defence as the rain intensified.
The Pride, featuring Cowboys players Jake Clifford and Peter Hola, continued to challenge.
Clifford scooped up a loose Devils’ pass in the 38th minute and looked set to run the length of the field to even the scores before five-eighth Tyson Gamble delivered one of the plays of the game.
If Donovan’s field goal was memorable last night, so was Gamble’s 80m pursuit of Clifford.
He showed pace and determination to bring Clifford down in the Devils quarter. Clifford tried to offload the ball in Gamble’s tackle and the Pride knocked the ball on.
Gamble was the only player from the Broncos’ top 30 list on the field for the Devils, who were forced to come from behind for the second time this season.
Former Devils fullback Jayden Corrigan pounced on a kick in the 51st minute to level the scores and the Barlow Park crowd celebrated when Josh Stuckey scored 10 minutes later to push the Pride to a 12-6 lead.
The Devils called on Nakubuwai’s strength again in the 73rd minute as the fightback began when he crashed over for a valuable try off another Gahan pass.
The Pride looked set to regain the lead in the 77th minute when Clifford launched a field goal attempt from almost in front of the posts.
The kick went wide and the Devils then marched down the field with local junior Hiale Roycroft carting the ball vital extra metres for the play-the-ball that led to Donovan’s winning kick.
“We had a really well-executed play at the end and sometimes you need those in a competition as close as this,” Devils coach Rohan Smith said.
Two weeks ago, the Devils unleashed three tries in eight minutes against the Townsville Blackhawks to overcome a late deficit. Last night, their seven points in six minutes were just as impressive considering the conditions.
“We’ve had five games this season and each of those games has been different,” Smith said.
“We’ve had different weather conditions, different game situations and different personnel. It’s been a good squad performance. We’ve found ways to compete and win but we’re just getting started. It’s a long season and it’s a long battle.”
Smith said the Devils were not surprised at the closeness of the match.
“It was a good, hard game. We came prepared for that. We knew that the Pride would be right up for it,” Smith said.
“Our defence through the whole game was very strong. No one was happy with how we attacked but it looked as though our guys were really enjoying the defensive side of it.”
Intrust Super Cup: NORTHS DEVILS 13 (Ben Nakubuwai 2 tries, Tyson Gamble goal, Bryce Donovan goal, field goal) bt NORTHERN PRIDE 12 (Jayden Corrigan, Joshua Stuckey tries, Jake Clifford two goals) at Barlow Park.
Hastings Deering Colts: NORTHS DEVILS 42 (Jared Chambers 2, Kahli Junior Kali 2, Zak McGuire 2, Poasi Manu, Lodoviko Cokanauto tries, Declan Haydon 5 goals) bt NORTHERN PRIDE 16 (Braye Porter, Seamus King-Smith, Robert Derby tries, King-Smith 2 goals) at Barlow Park.
Photo by Alan Drinnen