North Devils made a statement to the rest of the competition at National Football Stadium yesterday, defeating the PNG Hunters in Port Moresby.
Former NRL star Chris Sandow made his club debut for Norths and was a late inclusion for the side, while Hunters enforcer David Loko was the late withdrawal from his team suffering from dengue fever, and was replaced by Ishmael Balkawa.
In his time on the field, Sandow impressed, and make a big play when the Devils were under pressure, kicking an important 40/20 to give his team possession.
The visitors were the first to score after just three minutes through forward Matiu Love-Henry. The try came following some good backline play from Kodi Nikorima while fellow half Todd Murphy slotted the conversion.
The Devils scored again soon after, this time via fullback Javarn White as he chased a grubber kick and dived over after a Nikorima bomb was fumbled by the Hunters. Murphy again converted to give his side 12-0 lead.
The Hunters hit back with aggressive strong tackles however, frustration seemed to build up as they were penalised right in front of their try line. The Devils opted for a goal with Murphy slotting the penalty goal.
North scored again at the 17-minute mark, as lock Dalton Philips barged over from dummy half after a penalty from Hunters gave them possession.
The Devils forward pack, led by Francis Molo and James Taylor, really stood up by making good metres.
The home side finally went on the attack late in the half after they had earned themselves repeated sets.
A goal line drop out gave them possession and captain Ase Boas threw a long pass for winger Bland Abavu to score in the corner. Boas converted with just 13 minutes before halftime to put them back in the game.
Hunters interchange forward Wellington Albert was on fire as he made barnstorming runs, adding much-needed fire power for his team. However, he was placed on report for a suspected shoulder charge on Devils winger Michael Lucas.
Hunters ill-discipline gave possession to the visitors and they made the most of it, scoring through centre Delouise Hoeter as he kicked a Hunters dropped ball and dived over to score.
Murphy again converted the try and the Devils lead 26-6 going into the halftime break.
Again, ball handling errors and poor discipline from the Hunters gave the visitors possession as they opted for penalty goals with Murphy kicking three from three in a 20-minute period to lead 32-6.
Not wanting to disappoint their home fans, the Hunters hit back late in the game with tries to Abavu (his second) and Boas. The skipper converted both tries, but it was not to be, with the Devils holding on to win 32-18.
NORTHS DEVILS 32 (Matiu Love-Henry, Javarn White, Dalton Phillips, Delouise Hoeter tries; Todd Murphy 8 goals) def PNG HUNTERS 18 (Bland Abavu 2, Ase Boas tries; Ase Boas 3 goals) at National Football Stadium, Port Moresby.