Devils win epic battle
A SINGLE win stands in the way of the Gympie Devils lifting a historic first-ever Caloundra RSL Cup premiership after leaving Caloundra bruised and battered at the weekend.
Playing away Sunday at Shark Park in atrocious wet conditions, the Devils had nerves of steel to grind out a 16-12 victory over the minor premiers.
Winning the epic battle has allowed the Devils to march straight into the grand final, to be played on neutral ground in Nambour in a fortnight’s time.
The Gympie team has this weekend off while Caloundra licks its wounds, hoping to convert its second chance at a grand final berth against the Nambour Crushers in Gympie.
Nambour kept its dreams of premiership glory alive at the weekend with a tenacious 20-14 win over the Kawana Dolphins.
Devils coach John Greensill was still riding the wave of emotion yesterday following the breakthrough victory.
“The conditions were tough with driving rain but the Gympie boys handled it better,” he said.
“The commitment was there and we stood up to everything Caloundra threw at us.”
The Devils owned the first half, heading into the break with a 6-0 lead.
Desperate to change the momentum of the game, Caloundra stormed out in the second half and turned up the dial on its aggression.
Tension mounted as Caloundra tried to impose itself on the game, boiling over in a brawl three minutes into the second half, resulting in Gympie player Craig Marshall and Caloundra lock Wade Grayson being sent to the sin bin by the match referee.
The Devils hit a stumbling block in the next set of six when they lost Ray Ioane for the remainder of the clash following a high tackle on Sharks centre Chris McGill.
“The boys could have dropped their heads at this point but they didn’t,” Greensill said. “Instead, they dug deeper.”
A bad situation deteriorated further for Gympie when halfback Nick Swan, chief play maker for the Devils, was knocked out cold and helped off the field 20 minutes from the end.
Greensill said the Devils got the upper hand because they minimised errors in slippery conditions.
“We definitely were able to hang onto the ball better,” Greensill said. “We didn’t do anything too flashy.”
The Gympie coach is now tipping an upset this weekend in Gympie at Jack Stokes when Caloundra plays Nambour to decide who will fight the Devils for the premiership.
Meanwhile, Devils Reserves are finished for the season after going down to Noosa 40-12 in Nambour.