Birthday boy Jayden Stephens and his men in the middle led Norths to a treasured win over Wynnum Manly Seagulls in an entertaining Country Week clash in Wondai today.
Stephens, on his 25th birthday, and Tony Tumusa, in his 100th Hostplus Cup clash, celebrated special days as the Devils recovered from a mid-match wobble for a 44-32 win.
Wynnum piled on three consecutive tries without the Devils gaining possession in the second half before the back-to-back premiers settled and stormed home for an important win.
The Devils have to keep winning to make the finals and they faced a task today against a Wynnum team that had won its last seven matches.
But the Devils kept them at arm’s length for most of the game with Wynnum fielding one player from their Brisbane Broncos contingent while Norths had their usual brigade of Devils-contracted players.
Even when Wynnum hit the front, the Devils showed the cool heads that have delivered the last two premierships to Bishop Park.
Sam Elliott chased through a Jack Ahearn kick to score before Liam Horne, off another Ahearn attacking kick, and Jon Reuben delivered trademark tries in an eight-minute burst.
Horne, George Fai, Kierran Moseley and Viko Puliuvea were part of a tireless middle that had to work overtime after Zach Brooks injured his knee and Zac McMinn copped a head knock that prevented them both from returning to the field.
Both were in good spirits after the match and will return this season for the Devils.
“The win is important for us but we know that we can play better than that,” Devils coach Dave Elliott said.
“Wynnum are a quality team and we know that we had to work hard today to beat them and full credit to our middles for their work.
“We have another bye next week which gives us a chance to regroup and prepare for the last four games.”
The Devils have played 13 of their 16 matches this season against the current top eight teams and have been unbeaten against fellow Broncos-affiliated teams Souths and Wynnum.
Norths’ hopes were boosted when Reuben delivered another memorable Country Week performance, plucking an intercept and scorching 80 metres to score in the 19th minute.
That followed the opening try from fellow winger Manase Kaho.
Four years ago, Reuben scored twice against the Devils when playing for the Sunshine Coast Falcons in another Country Week match in the South Burnett at Nanango.
Devils centre Connor Broadhurst crossed on the right side in the 28th minute before Wynnum scored in the final two minutes before halftime to trail 20-12.
McMinn’s first try for the Devils three minutes into the second half was followed by the Seagulls’ three-try stretch that pushed them ahead 30-26 with Broncos five-eighth Josh Rogers kicking five goals.
For the Devils, five-eighth Bryce Donovan kicked seven of his eight attempts at goal.
Norths were well served by the likes of Kyle Coghill, premiership forward Moses Noovao-McGreal and centre Will Toloi in his first season for the club.
The Devils will travel to Ipswich for their next match after next weekend’s bye.
NORTHS DEVILS 44 (Jon Reuben 2, Manase Kaho, Connor Broadhurst, Zac McMinn, Sam Elliott, Liam Horne tries, Bryce Donovan 7 goals) bt WYNNUM MANLY SEAGULLS 32 (Kyle Foxwell 2, Darius Farmer, Oliver Pascoe, Josh Stuckey tries, Josh Rogers 5 goals) in Wondai.
Photo by Alan Drinnen