The Norths Devils opened up a three-point gap between them and Tweed on the Intrust Super Cup ladder after a convincing 40-12 victory over the Seagulls at the Piggabeen Sports Complex on Saturday.
Match: Seagulls v Devils
Round 9 -
Venue: Piggabeen Sports Complex, Tweed Heads
After a tough 30-minute period of scrapping between the two physical packs - as would be expected between the second and third placed teams - the Devils gained the upper hand either side of half-time with three converted tries and never relented.
It was an impressive performance against a Seagulls side missing key backs Brayden McGrady and Jayden Campbell and in-form forwards Joe Vuna and Jai Whitbread.
After a try each in the first 11 minutes, Norths scored three tries in 12 minutes from the 31st to the 43rd to take a 24-4 lead, and were too resilient to let their dominance slip.
The key to their success behind a strong performance by their forwards were playmakers Jack Ahearn and Jack Miers, and Kiwi international hooker Danny Levi who continually created hesitation in the Tweed defence with his smart feigning and probing from dummy half.
Skipper Ahearn was back calling the shots after a two week absence and he and Miers were prominent in five of Norths’ seven tries with coach Rohan Smith’s ploy of playing Ahearn at halfback in attack and fullback in defence working perfectly.
“It was a pleasing performance; we did a real good job to withstand the pressure that Tweed put us under early, conceding just the one try, and then came back and scored a few of our own,” said Smith.
“It’s always a good game down here and Woolfy’s [Tweed coach Ben Woolf] teams play really hard and compete hard on everything. We knew what we were in for and fortunately we found a few plays that got us on the right side of the scoreboard.
“We like to play good team footy without basing it on any key guy; we try to connect together and it was nice to see that worked today against a good team.”
Winger Talor Walters scored both of Tweed’s tries, the first in the fourth minute from a smart shift to the right, and his second eight minutes into the second half.
But the Seagulls lacked the finesse at the end of their sets that they had become accustomed to this season and the strike of fullback Campbell who had been chosen to make his NRL debut with the Gold Coast Titans.
Leivaha Pulu crossed for Norths after a neat dummy-half pass from Levi in the 12th minute with Miers’ conversion giving Norths a 6-4 lead before the opponents settled down for a tough grind with both sides failing to take advantage of opportunities either through errors or desperate defence for the next half-hour.
Former Seagulls Auswide Bank Mal Meninga Cup star, 19-year-old Broncos prospect Brendan Piakura, ran a good outside-in line off Ahearn from 10 metres and was too strong for the defence on the right edge to make it 12-4 and five minutes later, Piki Rogers crossed on the left edge when he ran into some space from close range off a Miers’ pass.
Miers converted from out wide to give the Devils a handy 18-4 lead at the break.
Piakura and 18-year-old fellow Bronco Xavier Willison, another Devils player who had gained a reputation on the Gold Coast at Palm Beach Currumbin high school, did not play a lot of minutes but showed the locals what they were missing with some impressive work.
Ahearn scored from a long range effort after winger Johnathon Rueben was put into the clear on the right and the ball went back to Ahearn who crossed under the posts to make it 24-4.
Walters’ second try five minutes later gave Tweed brief hope, only before Miers and Reuben combined to break the Seagulls’ spirit and virtually seal the result.
After Norths fielded a Toby Sexton bomb in goal, the ball went to Miers who quickly took the 20-metre tap and, in a set move, took the ball to the unprepared Seagulls line and put Reuben into a hole and he ran 80 metres to give Norths an unassailable lead at 30-8 with Miers’ conversion from the right touch line.
After Tweed centre Lee Turner had scored a determined try on the left, Ahearn was at it again with nine minutes remaining, this time looping a long pass to right winger Reuben who got outside of Jacobs and crossed in the right corner to make it 34-8.
A late try to Jordan Riki iced the result.
“We competed alright early on and put Norths under pressure but we really didn’t finish our sets well enough after that,” said Tweed coach Woolf.
“We knew what was coming from their attack but didn’t respond well enough. They challenge you with the ball; they challenged us in yardage and in good ball. You can’t rest and you can’t assume against them.
“They caught us out on a couple of short [line-drop out] kicks and got us on some one-one-ones. We gave them too much easy ball which enabled them to get down our end and put us under pressure and play attacking football on our line.
“Plus our kicking game and chasing game that has been our strength this season wasn’t good enough today.”.
The Seagulls will regroup before facing the Cutters in Mackay next Saturday.
Match: Cutters v Seagulls
Round 10 -
Venue: BB Print Stadium, Mackay
Norths host the Hunters at Nundah.
Match: Devils v Hunters
Round 10 -
Venue: Bishop Park, Brisbane