“Devils footy” returned to Bishop Park today as Norths overcame unexpected changes to surge to a 38-20 Hostplus Cup win over Mackay Cutters.
The Devils had lost their last three home matches in front of fans who had lapped up an overall streak of 25 wins from 28 games including last year’s premiership run.
The style of footy that fuelled that run returned today as Norths unloaded seven tries on a quality Cutters team including one of their best this season.
In the 64th minute, fullback Matthew Milson took the ball to the line and kicked for Brayden McGrady in the corner. McGrady grabbed the ball in one hand as he was heading over the sideline and flicked it back for Jacob Gagan to score a brilliant try.
But this win, from a Norths team featuring a starting 13 who had all signed Devils contracts this season, was about more than attack.
The Devils had to defend during key moments in the game, which began with an early Cutters try.
But they also had the setback of losing co-captain Michael Sio on match morning.
Forward Viko Puliuvea did not play the second half after a leg knock while the Devils played the last 10 minutes with 12 men after a sin-bin.
The Devils welcomed two debutants – Ben Te Kura, who had his 18th birthday in April, and Tauaalo Vaipulu who provided muscle in a forward pack missing the experience and skill of Sio.
Te Kura graduated from Devils nursery Wavell State High School last year while Vaipulu is a Narangba Rangers junior.
The win improved the Devils’ win-loss record to 8-5 and moved them into fifth place, one point from second on a congested ladder.
“That was pleasing to watch today and we showed more calm in the bigger moments,” Devils co-coach Kevin Neighbour said.
“In the last few weeks, we had looked hurried at different times chasing points. Today, we defended well and took our time.
“We have spoken that we have more time than we often think. Sometimes you think it’s very hurried but there is time.”
The Devils were looking to overcome slow starts in their last two games and they had an early wobble when Cutters prop Ross Bella crashed over in the fourth minute.
But Liam Horne’s short pass for Leivaha Pulu to barge over in the eighth minute sparked the home crowd which then applauded 10 minutes later when Brayden McGrady extended his margin as the competition’s leading tryscorer with his 13th of the season.
Lloyd Perrett, making his starting debut, scored his first Devils try in the 24th minute.
Tries to Tony Tumusa and Milson either side of halftime extended the Devils’ lead.
Milson, named player of the match, returned to the No.1 jersey as captain Jack Ahearn and Tyrone Roberts controlled the halves.
Roberts passed to Milson in the 73rd minute for an outstanding try with only 12 men as the Devils executed a scrum move that went from Milson to a flying Connor Broadhurst for the final try of the match. Broadhurst posted 14 points for the match.
The Devils were well served by Sam Lavea and Jayden Stephens making inroads in the middle.
The Devils won’t return to Bishop Park for six weeks as they hit the road, starting with the Dolphins at Redcliffe on Saturday night.
Earlier, the Cutters won the Hastings Deering Colts clash over the Devils 32-18.
NORTHS DEVILS 38 (Leivaha Pulu, Brayden McGrady, Lloyd Perrett, Tony Tumusa, Matthew Milson, Jacob Gagan, Connor Broadhurst tries, Broadhurst five goals) d MACKAY CUTTERS (Ross Bella, Ewan Coutts, Mitch Fogarty, Jake Riley tries, Brandon Finnegan 2 goals) at Bishop Park.