Norths Devils have surged into the top four and sealed another finals berth ahead of an intriguing final round of the Hostplus Cup.
Last night’s 52-12 demolition of Ipswich Jets at Bishop Park marked the Devils’ third consecutive win – a streak during which Norths has not conceded more than 16 points.
Ben King and Kevin Neighbour’s team are building momentum while some in the finals race hit tough patches.
The Capras’ loss to the Brisbane Tigers in Rockhampton this afternoon enabled the Devils to take fourth spot ahead of Saturday night’s regular season finale against Townsville Blackhawks at home.
If the Devils win, they will finish fourth and earn a second chance in the finals. The defending champions would face Burleigh Bears on the road in the first week of the finals.
A loss could put the Devils in sixth place and into an elimination final against anyone’s guess.
Three points separate the Tigers in seventh place and Mackay Cutters in 11th so it’s impossible to predict how the ladder will play out.
Co-coach King said the Devils were focused only on their fate as they prepare for a Blackhawks team that needs a miracle to make the finals.
The Bishop Park hill roared last night as the annual Old Boys’ gathering drew familiar faces back to Norths including former Devils’ Australian representatives Trevor Gillmeister, Mark Murray and Greg Conescu.
This year’s Devils joined the Old Boys on the hill to sing the team song, with the volume lifted by Norths’ impressive 10 tries and a scoreless second half for the Jets.
While the attacking flair brought the loudest cheers – Jayden Corrigan rattled up three tries while Leivaha Pulu and Liam Horne each scored two – it was the work at the defensive end that underlined the Devils’ momentum towards the finals.
This Jets team has built into the season under coach Ben Cross, earning a deserved victory against Wynnum Manly last round.
They took the Devils to the brink in April when Rohan Smith coached his final game before heading to Leeds Rhinos.
King and Neighbour took over the following game and steered the Devils to a treasured third consecutive finals campaign. That underlines the club’s renewed focus after six straight years without a finals appearance.
The Devils had impressive players across the field last night as they constantly threatened the Jets to provide Connor Broadhurst with a memorable night for his 150th Queensland Cup appearance.
Corrigan opened the scoring in the eighth minute before adding tries in 43rd and 53rd minute to give him seven from his last three matches on the right wing.
Horne was a constant threat in the middle of the field as the Devils kept the same starting spine (Horne, Tyrone Roberts, Tyson Gamble, Jack Ahearn) from the previous week’s win over the Capras.
“It was a real team effort last night on both sides of the ball against the Jets who are not an easy team to beat,” King said.
“And we always enjoy seeing the Old Boys here given the history of this club. It’s a special history and it’s something that we always keep in mind.
“It’s an exciting time of year. Everyone wants to be playing finals. We’ve got that chance but we have a very important match this weekend against a quality team.”
Earlier yesterday, the Devils fell 28-20 to the Jets in their Hastings Deering Colts clash.
The Devils fought back from a 12-0 deficit to level the scores at 20-all early in the second half.
The Devils’ Colts are out of finals contention with Saturday’s clash with the Blackhawks to complete their season.
NORTHS DEVILS 52 (Jayden Corrigan 3, Liam Horne 2, Leivaha Pulu 2, Jack Ahearn, Tony Tumusa, Brendan Piakura tries, Connor Broadhurst 6 goals) bt IPSWICH JETS 12 (Tyler Coburn, Hugh Sedger tries, Ngangarra Barker 2 goals) at Bishop Park.
Photo by Alan Drinnen