Norths delivered an emotional farewell for coach Rohan Smith as they scored in the last 90 seconds to defeat a valiant Ipswich Jets 36-32 in their Hostplus Cup match at North Ipswich Reserve tonight.
Smith’s final stand as Devils head coach was at once relaxed and frantic.
With less than two minutes remaining, the Devils trailed the Jets 30-32 on a blustery night.
Smith, who this week was signed by Leeds Rhinos as their head coach, has taught the premiers much in his five seasons at the helm.
Among them are execution and patience.
They showed it all tonight, taking until the fifth tackle, 18 metres out from the line and with 90 seconds remaining, to deliver the match-winning try.
Kierran Moseley sprinted out of dummy half and found impressive winger Brayden McGrady, who then turned the ball to charging co-captain Michael Sio.
Sio juggled the ball, regathered it and then scored a try to send Smith out a winner. And it was fitting the coach did it with a team of pure Devils.
Just like in last year’s grand final, tonight’s squad was made up only of players with Devils contracts. Players from affiliate club Brisbane Broncos were not available. Across the first five rounds, only seven out of the 85 combined places in the Devils teams have been taken by Broncos-contracted players, placing importance on the core of players Smith has brought together.
The Devils showed their feelings for their coach with a haka on the field after the match.
An emotional Smith thanked his players.
Once Smith finalises his visa for the United Kingdom, he will be off for a much-deserved stint in the Super League.
He will be gone before the Devils play again in two weeks, completing a tenure that delivered 49 wins from 73 matches – including 23 from his last 26 games – and a treasured 2021 premiership to Bishop Park.
“It’s been a privilege to have worked with the people I have over these years,” Smith said.
“Tonight wasn’t about me. Full credit to Ipswich because they played hard and fully tested us.”
After a stirring Anzac remembrance service, the Jets steamed out of the blocks with two converted tries in the opening 12 minutes.
The Devils stirred into action with fullback Matthew Milson’s try in the 20th minute but this night was never going to be easy.
The Jets fought hard, taking a 20-12 lead into the break and pegging back a six-point deficit after Jacob Gagan crossed for the Devils in the 49th minute.
Ipswich stunned the Devils with two tries in three minutes, placing the premiers in a real fight.
But this Devils team fought its way out of trouble continually last season.
Their 2021 win-loss record of 18-2 belied the fact they had to fight for rousing late wins against Townsville, Northern Pride, Tweed in the first week of the finals and then against Wynnum Manly in the grand final.
They held steady tonight with Sio’s try reflecting the grand final winner – a middle-forward scoring for the victory.
Connor Broadhurst scored a try in his 50th match for the Devils. Ben Nakubuwai, a tryscorer on Anzac weekend 2021, delivered another try tonight seconds after taking the field from the bench.
McGrady’s skills were again on display on the right wing in another promising performance.
The win leaves the Devils in the top three with a 4-1 win-loss record ahead of next weekend’s bye.
The Devils travel to Toowoomba the following week to play the PNG Hunters.
Earlier today, the Devils claimed their first win in the Hastings Deering Colts with a 44-22 triumph over the Jets.
The Devils scored eight tries, including one to Harry Walters in the opening minute, to level their season record at one win and one loss.
HOSTPLUS CUP: NORTHS DEVILS 36 (Matthew Milson, Ben Nakubuwai, Rashaun Denny, Brayden McGrady, Jacob Gagan, Connor Broadhurst, Michael Sio tries. Tyrone Roberts 4 goals) bt IPSWICH JETS 32 (Ngangarra Barker 2, Ono So’oialo, Tyler Coburn, Blake Lenehan tries, So’oilao 4 goals, Denzel Burns goal) at North Ipswich Reserve.
HASTINGS DEERING COLTS: NORTHS DEVILS 44 (Tristan Voll 2, Harry Walters, Levi Moger, Poasi Manu, Trent Casey, Izaac Onn, Joshua Pese tries, Blayden Dodd 4 goals, Hayden Rowbotham 2 goals) bt IPSWICH JETS 22.