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RED ROCK MATCH REPORT: Devils deliver historic premiership

Norths are still the champions of the Hostplus Cup, unleashing one of the most stunning winning streaks in the famous club’s history to defeat Redcliffe Dolphins and claim back-to-back titles.

The Devils toppled the Dolphins 16-10 – the same scoreline in last year’s grand final win over Wynnum Manly.

And this was a decider with as much suffocating tension as last year.

The Devils pushed clear with a remarkable try to winger Brayden McGrady in the 78th minute only for Redcliffe to regain the kick-off and have one last desperate attempt to draw level.

But how could there be any other way for a Devils team that has been forced to take the tough road all year.

The champions were written off by some critics when they lost six games out of eight mid-season.

Premiership coach Rohan Smith had departed after five rounds when signed by Leeds Rhinos and the Devils suffered important injuries.

Redcliffe and Burleigh both scored 50 points on the Devils during the mid-year wobbles.

But when the champions were down, their best qualities emerged.

Co-coaches Ben King and Kevin Neighbour primed the Devils, who won seven consecutive matches including victories over the top three teams in the finals to land the Devils’ 15th premiership in 90 seasons.

This was Norths’ first back-to-back titles since 1963 and 1964 and only the third consecutive premierships for any team since the Queensland Cup began in 1996.

And the Devils did it against Redcliffe on their home ground at Moreton Daily Stadium.

It was the first time the great rivals had met in a grand final and it was the Devils’ first win against the Dolphins at Redcliffe in nine years.

Co-captain Jack Ahearn thanked the Devils’ faithful for their support when the critics circled in the winter.

“We knew that some people didn’t believe but we stuck together as a team and we knew we could make a run,” Ahearn said.

“This is a very close team and we took a lot out of our trip to Roma for Country Week when we really bonded and set ourselves up for the run home.

“We saw the support at home last weekend (in the preliminary final win over Sunshine Coast) and we set ourselves to go to this game.

“It’s a special feeling. We started afresh in 2018 when Rohan came to the Devils and we built into this moment today. We’ll treasure it.”

The Devils aren’t finished yet – they will back up in the national championship final in Sydney next week on NRL grand final day.

But tonight they will celebrate a win built on defensive grit as the Dolphins dominated possession early and threw everything at the premiers.

This Devils wall of defence has been magnificent through the finals. The Burleigh Bears, Sunshine Coast and Redcliffe scored at will at times this season but they couldn’t crack the blue wall.

Redcliffe settled for a penalty goal in the 21st minute when they couldn’t find a way through.

And the Devils calmly moved downfield two minutes later for Tyson Gamble to throw a superb ball for man-of-the-match Jacob Gagan to score.

Gagan claimed the Duncan Hall Medal for his outstanding game and there were Devils stars across the field.

Ahearn, Gamble and the non-stop energy of Tyrone Roberts pulled the Devils’ strings in attack and their teammates rallied around them. Grand final specialist Connor Broadhurst claimed his third premiership while Tony Tumusa caused the Dolphins trouble all day.

The front row of Jayden Stephens, Kierran Moseley and Viko Puliuvea conceded size to the Dolphins front row but they gave the home team nothing.

Brendan Piakura was one of three Devils contracted to affiliate club Brisbane Broncos. He won a grand final in the second row with warrior Leivaha Pulu. Piakura missed last year’s decider after he was injured in the preliminary final.

And the inspirational co-captain Michael Sio was brilliant again in the middle of the field, collecting his second premiership in a row.

Liam Horne hit replay on his performance in last year’s grand final as he caused serious damage from the bench along with Matthew Milson and 2021 champion Jerome Veve.

And there were perhaps no better stories than interchange forward Lloyd Perrett.

The former NRL big man fell out of love with football and gave the game away.

He returned to the Devils last year and took his time to make it back on to the field but he delivered when Norths needed him most.

“This has been a full squad effort,” co-coach King said.

“We had 42 guys at training on Wednesday night. They were all there to help these guys get the job done.

“That says a lot about the spirit among these guys.”

The Devils led 6-2 at halftime and moved ahead 12-2 when McGrady crossed in the 50th minute after a classic Norths try.

The Dolphins scored twice in the corner to have a shot at defeating Norths but they couldn’t get across the line as the Devils held out the final assault.

NORTHS DEVILS 16 (Brayden McGrady 2, Jacob Gagan tries, Tyrone Roberts 2 goals) bt REDCLIFFE DOLPHINS 10 (Setu Tu, Edward Burns tries, Bryce Donovan goal) at Moreton Daily Stadium.

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