MATCH REPORT – Thunder 40 – 16 Whitehaven

Newcastle Thunder’s pre-season preparations got off to a solid start at Kingston Park Stadium on Saturday afternoon, with a 40 – 16 win over Whitehaven RLFC in their first friendly of the winter.

Fielding a side which combined a host of the club’s new signings for 2020 along with nine players who have come through the ranks of its academy structures, Thunder looked sharp against one of the sides promoted to the Betfred Championship for the coming campaign.

Starting the match brightly, Thunder created plenty in the early running but found themselves behind on the scoreboard after conceding an early penalty that gave the Cumbrians a converted try through captain Mark Shackley.

After thwarting centre Tyler Craig twice in flowing moves along their line, Newcastle got themselves off the mark on 18 minutes when quick passing created numbers out wide and played new signing Ashley Gibson in for his first try for the club.

Newcastle took the lead off the next set as Alex Clegg finished off a fine move started from the powerful carries of Adam Lawton and the awareness of Ollie Gowing, but matters were squared up when David Thompson equalised for the visitors with half an hour gone.

Opportunist tries for Lawton and fullback Lewis Young allowed Thunder to take a 22-10 lead into half-time that on balance they had earned.

With the elements creating tricky conditions, the start of the second half was a scrappy affair, but as things dried up, the hosts lead was extended as halfback Reece Dean finished off a midfield break that created a two-on-one overlap with the Whitehaven fullback.

On loan Super League forward Brad Walker gave a glimpse of what he will offer in 2020 when he created a try for himself by embarking on a run that drew in the visitors defence and allowed him to pick his choice of the gaps which to score through.

Having built an impressive lead, a moment of miscommunication at the back gave Whitehaven an easy converted score that will have disappointed the hosts, as a kick ahead was missed by Newcastle’s covering defenders and instead scooped up for a poacher’s try by Dion Aiye.

While it made little difference to the overall result, it was a score that Thunder will have been disappointed to concede after successfully dealing with most of what Whitehaven had to throw at them over the course of the afternoon.

The 24-point lead was restored though with a moment of individual skill seven minutes from time, as Young chipped the Whitehaven defensive line before gathering the ball superbly to cross for his second in the match.

With a number of front line players to come into the side, it was encouraging early signs for Simon Finnigan’s side, ahead of a second pre-season friendly against Leeds Rhinos on January 26th and the start of the Betfred League 1 season at home to West Wales Raiders on Saturday 15th February.

Newcastle Thunder: Lewis Young, Ashley Gibson, Tyler Craig, Kieran Gill, Alex Clegg, Quentin Laulu Togaga’e, Reece Dean, Rory Nettleton, Ollie Gowing, Mikey Wood, Adam Lawton, Jake Lightowler, Evan Simons. Subs: Sam Blake, Brad Walker, Kieran Hudson, Brenden Santi, Sean Croston, Dan Coates, Jed Charlton, Isaac Nokes, David Weetman.

Tries: Gibson (13), Clegg (16), Lawton (29), Young (39, 73), Dean (51), Walker (55)

Goals: Dean 6/7.

WHITEHAVEN: Chris Taylor, David Thompson, Connor Holiday, Jessie Joe Parker, Andrew Bulman, Dion Aiye, Sam Forrester, Mark Shackley, Callum Phillips, Glenn Riley, Brett Phillips, Ellis Gillam,.Jake Bradley Subs: Ethan Kelly, Jake Moore, Tom Walker, Tom Wilkinson, Sam Dowsett, Jamie Thackeray.

Tries: Shackley (5), Thompson (23), Aiye (62).

Goals: Dowsett 2/3

Ref rating: S. Race

Half-time: 22-10

Penalties: 9-6

Attendance: 478