Hunslet RLFC 10 – 34 Newcastle Thunder

Newcastle Thunder progressed to the quarter-finals of the League 1 Cup on Sunday after riding out a scrappy match against Hunslet RLFC and taking a 34-10 win.

It was a performance that showed some very pleasing play from Mick Mantelli’s side, but one that also delivered plenty of work on’s ahead of next weekend’s third round Ladbrokes Challenge Cup tie against Workington Town at Kingston Park.

After a lightening start, Thunder was 0-4 up within six minutes as they made the most of their early chances, with an unconverted try from Ali Blair.

Taking a neat pass from Derrell Olpherts, who pulled in two defenders to create the gap, Blair cantered over, but it was a lead that was quickly chalked off, as Hunslet hit back four minutes later.

Making the most of a great 40/20 to take the lead thanks to a try for Jake Normington that was converted by Joe Sanderson, it was a score that pointed towards a see-saw encounter, but one that spurred Thunder into regaining their foothold in the match.

A converted effort from Tyler Craig restored the lead on 17 minutes before Danny Nicklas engineered an excellent score for Olpherts with a neatly stabbed kick for the centre to chase, which he duly latched onto to.

The hosts were reduced 12 men for the rest of the match with six minutes of the half remaining when Gavin Duffy was sent off following an all-in brawl, which saw the rest of those involved placed on report.

Co-Captain Rhys Clarke extended Thunder’s lead to 6-18 thanks to some smart play from his half-back Benn Hardcastle as half-time approached, though it was Hunslet who had the final say of the half, with a try against the run of play for Mufaro Mvududu.

With a full forty minutes to play with a man down, Thunder knew that their hosts would be dogged in their resistance, but were able to extend their lead thanks to Lewis Young.

Proving to be a fullback of excellent calibre, 2016’s young player of the season made a superb strike from 25m out to give Thunder a 12 point lead and a foot in the door of the quarter-finals of the competition.

As a testament to the scrappy nature of the game, the scoreboard remained untroubled for a further half hour, before Thunder finished with a flourish adding two quick-fire tries in the final five minutes through Vincent Rennie and Evan Simons.

Both converted by Hardcastle, it was a satisfactory start to the competitive action for 2017 and one that provides a clearing picture of the early season pecking order in Kingstone Press League 1

Newcastle Thunder Squad

Lewis Young, Tyler Craig, Joe Brown, Derrell Olpherts, Ali Blair, Danny Nicklas, Benn Hardcastle, Brett Waller, Evan Simons, Corbyn Kilday, Harry Aldous, Rhys Clarke, Jack Aldous, Aaron Teroi, Vincent Rennie, Sam Luckley, Lee Paterson

Thunder try scorers – Blair (6), Craig (17), Olpherts (21), Clarke (35) Young (45), Rennie (74) Simons (79)

Thunder goal scorer – Hardcastle (17, 74, 79

Hunslet RLFC Squad

Danny Thomas, Ryan Ince, Jack Norfolk, Mufaro Mvududu, Gavin Duffy, Joe Sanderson, Danny Ansell, Michael Haley, George Flanagan, Matt Carbutt, Aston Wilson, Jake Normington, Liam Mackay, Matthew Tebb, Austin Bell, Jack Coventry, Nyle Flynn

Hunslet try scorers – Normington (10), Mvududu (40)

Hunslet goal scorer – Sanderson (10)

Sent off – Gavin Duffy.