Norths equalled their largest win in years and kept a clean sheet for the first time in 10 seasons with a 48-0 Hostplus Cup defeat of Northern Pride at Bishop Park last night.
Liam Horne’s three tries in 14 minutes fuelled the Devils’ best winning margin against any team since Herbie Farnworth unloaded 34 points against the Pride in a 2019 cruise in Cairns.
But the defensive effort most pleased Devils coach Dave Elliott as his team withstood a sin bin in the 70th minute to keep their opponents scoreless for the first time since a 28-0 win over Sunshine Coast Falcons in 2014.
For all the Devils’ brilliance through the club’s premiership seasons in 2021 and 2022, opponents still found a way to cross the line in a match.
The Pride had won three of their opening five matches and they looked set to score late in the match only for Devils captain Jack Ahearn to turn his former teammate Rashaun Denny on to his back with Horne rushing in to assist.
Since posting a try in seven seconds from a restart against the Cutters in Mackay last week, the Devils have outscored their opponents 84-6 to turn the keys on a season that had included two draws. The Devils have two wins, two draws and three losses heading into next Sunday’s trip to Sunshine Coast to play the second-placed Falcons.
“We played both sides of the football out there and it was pleasing to see that determination,” Elliott said.
“We know that the Pride are a difficult team to beat and they came here with a winning record.
“We talk about improving every week and this was another step in that direction.”
The Devils opened the scoring in the eighth minute when Broncos forward Brendan Piakura found a hole close to the line from Horne’s dummy-half pass.
The game was closely fought for the next half-hour with Bryce Donovan’s penalty goal in the 30th minute – one of his eight successful kicks from nine attempts – pushing the Devils ahead 8-0.
The scoring ramped up in the 36th minute when Ahearn’s deft last-tackle kick created a deserved try for tireless forward Sam Elliott.
Six tries followed in the second half – Horne scored the first three of them in an eventful night during which he played hooker, lock and centre as the Devils took the chance to rest players late in the match.
Horne needed the skills of a forward and a back to score his second try. He charged off Kierran Moseley’s pass 35 metres out, sprinting 20 metres before he kicked for Moseley, only to regain the ball from a rebound and dive over for a try in front of the Devils fans on the hill.
The Moseley-Horne combination worked again 11 minutes later when the impressive NRL Indigenous All-Stars hooker weaved from dummy-half to create the space for Horne’s hat-trick.
Bernard Gregorius worked hard to finish a backline move for a try in the 62nd minute.
Another three minutes passed before another Ahearn break was finished with a Moseley-Ahearn move that enabled Broncos forward Xavier Willison to score. Willison played well.
The Devils’ scoring ended in the 74th minute when playing with 12 men. Donovan held up a pass for Moses Noovao-McGreal to score his second try in as many weeks.
The Devils sang the team song at home for the first time this season with good performers across the park.
Back Jared Chambers ran the ball with intent in his first Cup outing for the season, playing on the wing while Tony Tumusa defended at centre alongside Jon Reuben. The Devils would have topped 50 points but a runaway Reuben try was called back by a touch judge.
Connor Broadhurst missed the previous home match with his first injury in years but he was back to full strength last night, resting late with an eye to next Sunday’s clash with the Falcons.
Jayden Stephens, Viko Puliuvea and Zach Brooks started in the middle for the Devils while Max Elliott returned from a week off with a minor injury to join brother Sam in the pack.
Earlier in the day, the Devils’ Colts team recorded its first win of the season, scoring seven tries in a 34-18 defeat of the Pride.
The Devils had played well in patches in last week’s season-opening match against the Cutters in Mackay and they finished strongly yesterday.
Blayden Dodd and Declan Haydon each scored two tries as the Devils recovered from an 18-14 deficit early in the second half.
Darcy Turner’s try in the last minute sealed a confidence-boosting win for Norths.
HOSTPLUS CUP: NORTHS DEVILS 48 (Liam Horne 3, Brendan Piakura, Sam Elliott, Bernard Gregorius, Xavier Willison, Moses Noovao-McGreal tries, Bryce Donovan 8 goals) d NORTHERN PRIDE 0 at Bishop Park.
HASTINGS DEERING COLTS: NORTHS DEVILS 34 (Blayden Dodd 2, Declan Haydon 2, Tariq Tanner, George Henry-Monaei, Darcy Turner tries, Dodd goal, Harry Walters goal, George Taualai goal) d NORTHERN PRIDE 18 (Malique Douthat, Javan Mosby, Regan Herd tries, Herd 3 goals) at Bishop Park.
Photo by Alan Drinnen