Norths’ crew of fulltime workers got back to basics and back into the winners’ list against a Cowboys-packed Townsville Blackhawks at Bishop Park today.
The Devils’ finished off a quality 26-12 Hostplus Cup win – their seventh in a row against a Blackhawks team they had never beaten until the winning streak began.
The Devils included only one fulltime rugby league player from their affiliation with the Broncos – impressive forward Xavier Willison – while the Blackhawks fielded 12 fulltime players from their NRL affiliation with the North Queensland Cowboys.
But the Devils have done this before against fulltime players and the team featuring teachers, a crane driver, an electrician, a fridge mechanic, a shopfitter and youth workers among others controlled the game from the outset.
The back-to-back premiers wore jerseys specially made for National Road Safety Week which was supported by valued sponsor Altus Traffic.
This was a pleasing win for Devils coach Dave Elliott against a club that he helped as assistant coach for many years.
Prop Justin Makirere crashed over for his first try for the Devils in the 17th minute and the home team was never headed.
Zac McMinn became Devil No. 1337 against the team he trained with throughout the pre-season before moving to Bishop Park in the final stages of his fridge mechanic apprenticeship.
McMinn typified the determination in a Norths team ready to claw its way up a congested points table.
Liam Horne was named player of the match by commentators in the nationally televised match as he continued the hard running that yielded another two tries in a remarkable offensive season for the PNG international.
The Devils were well-represented across the park and showed their defensive mettle against a team that poured on 54 points last weekend.
Captain Jack Ahearn steered a team that kept the Blackhawks to two tries and no points in the last 37 minutes.
“We wanted to simplify things coming out of our half and get to our kicks and apply pressure,” Elliott said.
“Instead of hurting ourselves with mistakes we helped ourselves and that was a big difference for us.
“We’ve been systematically good in defence but letting some simple tries in but we worked together well today.”
The Devils’ 12-6 lead at the break became 12-all when Jodeci Baker-Tiraha scored in the corner for the Blackhawks minutes into the second half. But they were the visitors’ last points for the game.
Horne’s two tries came from kicks – one from dangerous hooker Kierran Moseley and another from half Bryce Donovan, who kicked five goals from as many attempts.
Centre Connor Broadhurst scored the best individual try of the match, breaking from defenders to plant the ball five minutes before halftime.
The Devils have drawn on the depth of their squad in recent weeks.
Jared Chambers has performed well in three matches while Tony Tumusa moved into the centres today alongside Jon Reuben playing against the team with which he first arrived in the competition.
The Devils made changes to their halves with Kyle Coghill in the No.6 jersey and a forward pack altered after Broncos second-rower Brendan Piakura was a late withdrawal.
The home team were well served in their pack with Tauaalo Vaipulu and Zach Brooks providing punch from the bench and forcing errors for a starting pack that included Jayden Stephens, Viko Puliuvea and tireless Sam Elliott who thoroughly deserved today’s win.
Willison had the bellringer moment of the match when he floored one of the Blackhawks close to the Devils’ line.
The Devils head to Rockhampton next Saturday to meet the Capras before their first bye of the season.
NORTHS DEVILS 26 (Liam Horne 2, Justin Makirere, Connor Broadhurst tries, Bryce Donovan five goals) bt TOWNSVILLE BLACKHAWKS 12 (Taniela Sadrugu, Jodeci Baker-Tiraha tries, Thomas Duffy 2 goals) at Bishop Park.
Photo by Alan Drinnen