The Norths Devils produced a clinical and bruising performance in putting the Absolute Enterprises Mackay Cutters to the sword at BB Print Stadium in Mackay last night.
The home side entered the clash with an air of confidence with inspirational hooker Josh Chudleigh and North Queensland Cowboy Tautau Moga both returning from injury to bolster the pack in the hope of turning their 2016 campaign around.
The Cutters may have had a spring in their step with a few of their big guns back on deck, but it was the Devils silencing the parochial crowd early when poor cover up play from Mackay saw second rower Brett Greinke dive on a simple grubber kick to the in-goal to provide the first points.
A mixture of composed attack and physical defence saw the Devils keep the home side at an arms-length, their suffocating style of football frustrating the Mackay team into silly errors.
The Cutters almost found a chink in the Devils armour when they were able to force back-to-back sets, only for Jack Creith to be escorted over the touch in-goal line with some last gasp defence.
With the tide already turned against the home side, Norths were able to make something out of nothing when a clearing last tackle kick took a horror ricochet off a Cutters defender and popped into the waiting arms of a charging Rhett Webster, who caught the ball in clear pasture and raced away to extend the lead to 12.
Not content to sit on their lead, the Devils proved they had the talent out wide to find points as well. With the big men paving the way up the middle, they used the opportunity to spread the ball to the edges, with Rogan Dean proving it was the right decision when he caught the ball on the outside of his opposing winger, muscled his way out of a last-ditch tackle and used his blinding speed on a 50m breakaway to score the third try of the night for the Devils.
With the first half dwindling away, Mackay were awarded a relieving penalty close to the Devils line, and Liam Taylor finally put the home side on the scoreboard with a neat last tackle grubber through for himself, scoring out on the left flank to send the teams to the sheds separated by 14 points.
Mackay took to the field with renewed intensity for the second half, knowing they needed to capitalise on any opportunities that they may be presented with to get back into the contest.
They didn’t have to wait long when the Devils made a costly mistake early and presented them with the chance they had been waiting for. Chudleigh showed what the Cutters had been missing in his absence when he caught the Devils defence napping, powering his way up the middle of the park to score and bringing the Cutters back into the thick of things at 18-10.
Unfortunately for the home faithful, the joy was short-lived as Norths again made the uphill battle that little bit steeper when Billy Brittain latched onto a clinical short ball to score, and then minutes later Jarryd Dodd found himself unchallenged on the end of another simple grubber kick to the in goal to put real breathing space between the teams at 28-10.
With the fire all but extinguished, Todd Murphy iced the game for the Devils when he slid over untouched, before Taylor gave the home fans something to cheer about as he slipped a brilliant pass back on his inside for Chudleigh to dot down for a consolation try, and a final score of 32-16.
Post-match Mackay coach David Simpson highlighted the test of character his team faced as they remained winless from their sixth start.
“This a real test of character and it won’t be a quick fix, we know that,” Simpson said.
“We’ve just got to keep turning up, and I fully believe that success comes to those who hold on after others have let go.
“If we can start doing the little things right, I know we’ll get the results that we’re after.”
NORTHS DEVILS 32 (Brett Greinke, Rhett Webster, Rogan Dean, William Brittain, Todd Murphy, Jarryd Dodd tries; Todd Murphy 4 goals) def MACKAY CUTTERS 16 (Joshua Chudleigh 2, Liam Taylor tries; Liam Taylor 2 goals) at BB Print Stadium Mackay.