MATCH REPORT – Newcastle Thunder 6 – 20 Doncaster RLFC

Newcastle Thunder were far from their best as the Betfred League 1 playoffs began at Kingston Park on Sunday afternoon, as Doncaster took a second win of the year in the North East with a comfortable 20-6 win.

Thunder were unable to hit the straps that they have thrilled and entertained throughout this season and allowed an efficient Doncaster team to control proceedings.

The hosts put themselves under earlier pressure at the start of their first attacking set with a knock-on at the play the ball that handed possession straight back to the visitors following the kick-off.

Thought they defending well and kept the Dons out, half-back Matty Beharrell dropped back for his fifth tackle kick and lofted his kick high into the sky, with Sam Doherty leaping highest to gather and score.

A good period of pressure yielded nothing for Thunder and though they pinned Doncaster behind their own goal-line at the start of a set, a pair of loose balls allowed the Dons to make many more meters than Newcastle would have liked.

Newcastle continued to frustrate themselves and after a hard-carrying set made plenty of yards but the ball was cheaply lost forward on the floor in the Dons 20m

Having looked dangerous in attack but, like also unable to make a telling break, Doncaster opted to kick for goal when they were awarded a penalty 40m out following a melee between the two sides, but Beharrell’s effort was wide

It was the start of an ill-tempered passage of play as Nick Newman was taken out late off the ball before Matty Wright was shown yellow for what was deemed a dangerous tackle on Thomas Halliday on the next passage of play.

Thunder’s best period of the opening forty followed shortly after as they played their way through the tackle count and kept the ball in hand.

Working out wide to Kieran Gill, the centre breached the defensive line but was unable to ground cleanly and instead lost the ball forward.

It was a costly error as Doncaster scythed their way upfield from that restart and worked a try for another former Thunder man Jason Tali to cross with acres of space to spare and double his side’s lead.

A good first set for the hosts at the start of the second half forced Doncaster to kick into touch as Rhys Clarke attempted to find Misi Taulapapa with a chip through at the end of a set, and though they went close, the Samoan was unable to ground the ball following an acrobatic dive.

It was a short-lived spell on the front foot however as attempting to strip the ball, Thunder instead managed loose it forward, giving the Dons the platform from which they were able to drive Frankie Mariano over under the posts.

With an hour played, another surging, but chalked off effort from Gill was a close as Thunder had gone to registering their first score of the day and that lack of potency allowed Doncaster to kill off the game with 15 minutes remaining.

Inexplicably attempting to keep the ball alive 40 meters out from the Dons line, a miscommunication between Clarke and Taulapapa allowed Matthew Chrimes to scoop up the ball and streak away for a try under the posts.

From such a strong position, Doncaster showed great organisation and resilience in defence and almost managed to nil the hosts, but winger Alex Clegg made sure Newcastle were spared that ignominy with a diving effort converted by Clarke.

Thunder will now face Workington Town at Kingston Park this weekend, with date and kick-off times set to be confirmed early this week.

 Newcastle Thunder

Lewis Young, Misi Taulapapa, Matty Wright, Kieran Gill, Alex Clegg, Quentin Laulu Togaga’e, Nick Newman, Liam McAvoy, Keal Carlile, Sam Luckley, Rhys Clarke, Conor Fitzsimmons, Evan Simons, Muizz Mustapha, Jared Blanke, Harry Aldous, Aaron Ollett

Tries: Clegg (78)

Goals: Clarke 1/1

Doncaster RLFC

Jordan Howden, Sam Doherty, Connor Bower, Jason Tali, Thomas Halliday, Rangi Chase, Matty Beharrell, Levy Nzongou, Kyle Kesik, Russell Spiers, Frankie Mariano, Jordie Hedges, Brandan Wilkinson, Watson Boas, Ryan Boyle, Brandon Douglas, Matthew Chrimes

Tries: Doherty (2) Tali (35) Mariano (47) Chrimes (62)

Goals: Beharrell  2/5