MATCH REPORT – Newcastle Thunder 42 – 14 Hemel Stags

Local talent was to the fore on Sunday afternoon as Newcastle Thunder got back to winning ways against a determined Hemel Stags at Kingston Park Stadium.

Fielding a total of five players with North East roots, including three products of the club’s Under 19s academy system, they played a key role in a game where the hosts ran in eight tries.

The Stags started off on the front foot when an early penalty gave the visitors an opportunity to go from within the Thunder half.  Completing the set, Dean Thomas’ men got to within striking distance of Thunder’s try line, but the hosts’ defence was resolute enough to prevent the lead being taken.

Resisting that initial attack, it was up to Thunder to open the days scoring six minutes into the game through Ali Blair.  Back into the starting line up for this game, the winger wasted no time in getting himself back to scoring ways as he took a neat pass before stretching his way past the Stags line for a converted score that assumed a 6-0 lead. 

Looking to build on that opening score, a bullocking rung from Mo Agoro up the middle of the park earned Thunder a penalty after a high tackle from which they extended the lead.

Working the ball across the pitch, the visitors’ defence was closing down the space in which Thunder were operating but a pinpoint pass from Aaron Ollett found its man in Agoro, with the winger beating the last man and the touchline to ground the ball.

Hemel were able to hit back through Dean Roberts shortly after as they pounced on a handling error off the restart, but Evan Simons got the lead back to 10 points with a solo effort from in front of the Stags posts.

Playing with his head up from the base of a ruck, the hooker spotted Stags out of the line and sold a great dummy before stepping into the gap created to score.

A second goal line drop of the afternoon was forced upon the visitors shortly after, as Thunder showed great tenacity in chasing a fifth tackle chip before Under 19s academy product David Weetman crossed for his first senior try for the club.

Taking a pass out of the tackled from Adam Brook, the Cramlington native has a clear run to the line though had to be aware of defenders closing in from the edges to make sure of his try. 

There was a final score of the half from Aaron Ollett who powered over from close range on 35 mins to complete what had been a good opening half for the home side.

The second half was just five minutes old when Ali Blair released Niall Sidney for a superb solo score, with the former academy star fending off one pursuing Stag, dodged another before outpacing the fullback to cross for an unconverted try.

Stags enjoyed a decent spell of possession following that try and after earning a penalty that started a fresh set from 40 m out, forced a repeat set from the hosts, before an offside penalty afforded them another tackle count reset 20m from the home sides line. 

It yielded the visitors second try of the fay as Wayne Jowett reached out of the tackle to ground the ball at full stretch and take some reward following plenty of effort.

Getting back onto the front foot, Thunder launched into a frenzied period of attack with the pace and repeated off-loads and direction changes forced the Stags into a number of mistakes and penalty concessions that allowed the hosts to build up pressure on their opposition and ultimately increase the gap through a second try of the day from Evan Simons.

Roberts hit back for the Stags as he won the footrace to a kick through with fifteen minutes to go despite a question over just how much control over the ball he had whilst grounding, though it would only be a temporary inroad as Niall Sidney made sure of his brace on the next set, as he rose highest to collect a lofted ball before successfully getting down to ground.

The remaining minutes saw a scrappy end to the game, with Thunder enjoying more of possession and territory, but letting the Stags breath sighs of relief with a number of handling errors as they attempted to force further scores when greater patience may have yielded those points.

Debutant Kieran Hudson went closest to adding another try for the hosts in the final moments before a final flourish from Hemel saw the visitors threaten the Thunder line, but there were to be no further additions to the score sheet.

Newcastle Thunder

Ben Dent, Mo Agoro, Ali Blair, Kieran Hudson, Niall Sidney, Tom Shaw, Adam Brook, Liam McAvoy, Evan Simons, Jack Aldous, Sam Luckley, Aaron Ollett, Harry Aldous, Joe Cator, Vincent Rennie, Sam Blake, David Weetman

Tries: Blair (6) Agoro (14) Simons (22, 64) Weetman (31) Ollett (40) Sidney (44, 75)

Goals: Shaw 5/8

Sinbin: Cator (64) – professional foul

Hemel Stags

Matthew Welham, Darren Forde, Alexander Williams, Corey Hanson, Richard Williams, Jack Mitchell, Shaun Roberts, Reece Williams, Jono Burns, Blake Broadbent, Santino Decaro, Dean Roberts, Sonny Esslemont, Paul Stamp, Austin Bell, Stefano Bastas, Wayne Jowett

Tries: D Roberts (17, 72), Jowett (55)

Goals: S Roberts 1/3

Half-time: 28-4

Referee: Andy Sweet

Attendance: 676