Two old friends traded tries back and forth as Norths Devils won their sixth consecutive away match with a polished 40-12 win over Tweed Seagulls at Piggabeen Sporting Complex this weekend.
The match brought together the second and third-placed Intrust Super Cup teams but the Devils unloaded seven tries for the fourth time this season to strengthen their position on the ladder.
Three of those tries involved the hands of captain Jack Ahearn and winger Jon Reuben, whose close friendship stretches a decade to their move from school into the Canberra Raiders system.
In the 44th minute, Reuben sent the final pass to Ahearn to complete a sweeping 75-metre try that could only be applauded by the Seagulls fans on a chilly afternoon at Piggabeen. Forward Jordan Riki was instrumental in that try with a surging 30-metre run and offload as seven Devils touched the ball.
Ahearn repaid the favour to Reuben 15 minutes later when he found Tweed scrambling and Reuben charging from a 20-metre tap re-start.
Showing the form that netted him the Intrust Super Cup winger of the year title in 2019, Reuben took Ahearn’s short pass and steamed 70 metres to score.
In the 71st minute, Ahearn found his old mate again, this time with a drifting pass that cut out two players and helped Reuben flash into the corner.
Reuben now has 98 tries from his 97 Cup matches – good enough for eighth on the all-time list.
But this Devils win was built on more than tries.
The first half was played at a hectic pace that left the score 6-4 to Norths after half an hour.
The Devils then set the tone for the match with constant pressure on the Seagulls’ line.
Leivaha Pulu (12th minute pass from Danny Levi), Brendan Piakura (32nd minute pass from Ahearn) and Piki Rogers (36th minute pass from Jack Miers) ensured the forwards tallied all of the Devils’ first-half tries.
Miers kicked well, landing six of his seven conversion attempts, while Ahearn made a strong impact in his return from a two-game injury layoff and Levi kept the Tweed defence on edge.
The Devils had to adjust with the late withdrawals of key forward Michael Sio, who remained at home with his heavily-pregnant partner, and Broncos centre Dale Copley who was feeling unwell.
Riki was back at the Devils, where he made his senior debut and won a Colts premiership, for the first time since last year. The 21-year-old was the oldest of the Broncos contingent with the Devils outside of Levi, who was signed by Norths early this year.
Coach Rohan Smith again recognised another solid Devils’ team performance that has been played out on the Intrust Super Cup individual statistics for the season.
The Devils’ names don’t feature prominently on individual leaderboards yet the team sits second with eight wins from nine games.
The Devils have won their last six away matches – their sole match last year in Mackay before wins this season at the home grounds of the Tigers, Magpies, Pride, Capras and Tweed.
“We’ve always emphasised the importance of the team playing well and connecting which gives us our best chance to play the football that we like to play,” Smith said.
“Tweed are a good team so we knew this game would be a challenge. We put together some good plays in attack but we also defended well against a team that can put together tries quickly.
“We have a very healthy respect for (Tweed coach) Ben Woolf’s teams. They make you think a lot with their attack and they constantly test you. It’s easy to see why they’re in the top four because of that quality.”
The Devils return to Bishop Park on Saturday afternoon to meet the PNG Hunters in the first of two consecutive home matches with the Northern Pride visiting seven days later.
Earlier in the day, the Devils Colts surged to a 14-0 lead against Tweed Seagulls before the home team clicked into gear, winning 52-20. The Devils remain in ninth place on the Colts ladder.
NORTHS DEVILS 40 (Jon Reuben 2, Leivaha Pulu, Brendan Piakura, Piki Rogers, Jack Ahearn, Jordan Riki tries, Jack Miers 6 goals) bt TWEED SEAGULLS 12 (Talor Walters 2, Lee Turner tries) at Piggabeen Sporting Complex.
Photo by Alan Drinnen.