With black armbands in honour of one of rugby league’s toughest players, Norths almost pulled off a stunning fightback yesterday in one of the strangest Hostplus Cup clashes for some time.
The Devils fell to Tweed 32-26 at Piggabeen in a match in which both teams had scoreless halves. And there wasn’t a hint of a breeze to suggest one end of the ground was better than the other.
The Devils had the worst of the first half – a forgettable 0-32 stumble sparked by Tweed’s three-try waltz through the opening 15 minutes.
But, in a burst that would have made late former Devil John Sattler proud, Norths outscored the home team 26-0 in the second half. The Devils wore their armbands in memory of Sattler.
Both teams finished with five tries in the constant drizzle but Tweed had the cushion of two penalty goals in the first half to fend off the premiers.
The Devils had a chance to draw the game.
After Bernard Gregorius scored in the 78th minute, the Devils forced a turnover in Tweed territory to mount a last-minute rush only for the referee to rule the visitors had knocked the ball on.
That was the end to a second half blitz started by Brendan Piakura’s 46th minute try – his third in as many games this season – before the usual try from Jon Reuben five minutes later.
Reuben also has a try in every match this season.
Captain Jack Ahearn reached out to score in the 57th minute while premiership forward Viko Puliuvea crashed over in the 74th minute. Gregorius’ try four minutes later gave the home crowd serious concerns.
The Devils have one point from their first three games but they know they had chances to win all of their matches against 2022 finalists Burleigh, Redcliffe and Tweed.
The Devils and Dolphins are the only two teams to start with three consecutive matches against last season’s finalists as the season settles into a rhythm.
“We know that we can be better and that means we have to play for 80 minutes,” Devils coach Dave Elliott said.
“That second half showed what we could do. We defended with pride and we defended with real force.
“We’ve had chances to win every game so far and we’ll continue to work on getting better.”
Tweed began with tries in the fourth, 10th and 15th minutes to stun the Devils.
Gold Coast Titans halves Toby Sexton and Thomas Weaver were prominent in the first half, while fellow Titan Treymain Spry crossed for a try in the 33rd minute.
The Devils were forced into a late change when Broncos halfback Jock Madden withdrew on the eve of the game. Connor Broadhurst returned to the halves while Gregorius made his first Devils appearance since the 2021 grand final.
Norths were again well served by lock Sam Elliott, NRL Indigenous All-Stars hooker Kierran Moseley and powerful forward Jayden Stephens whose typical effort ended with him losing four kilograms during the match in sticky conditions.
Kyle Coghill performed well in the centres after covering for James Johnson, who tweaked his ankle late in the first half.
Photo by Alan Drinnen