MATCH REPORT: Thunder rumble league leaders

Newcastle Thunder closed the gap to the top of Betfred League 1 on Sunday afternoon as dogged determination saw them beat league leaders Whitehaven in a scrappy, but enthralling rugby league fixture.

After drawing 12-12 away to the Cumbrians in April, Thunder were hoping to make home advantage count, but it was far from straight forward, with indiscipline and errors thwarting their efforts to find an early score.

It was a penalty that lead to the first try of the afternoon, as a perceived shoulder charge from Newcastle gave the visitors the platform to play Jesse Joe Parker in for a try in the corner.

Struggling to complete sets, when Thunder managed to string together a cohesive move, it allowed them to take the lead as former Whitehaven man Rhys Clarke crashed over from close range for a converted try that owed everything to the brute strength of the Newcastle pack.

In what was proving to be a tight game, when Whitehaven were presented with an easy penalty in front of the goal, they opted to take them and square the scores at six all in what was the start of an error strewn period that put Thunder under undue pressure.

First the restart was put out on the full to allow the Cumbrians to start their next set on the half-way line and then a mistake at the play the ball whilst trying to break up field ultimately led to a penalty that allowed the visitors to take the lead.  

It was a lead that grew early into the second half as the Cumbrians scored their second converted try of the day, but it was quickly trimmed as Thunder’s Kieran Gill made a breakthrough the midfield that Clegg was on hand to finish.

The winger’s score was the spark that they needed to find a way to secure the win, which they achieved thanks two superb bits of individual skill from fullback Lewis Young and half-back Mikey Lewis.

The pair, renowned for their ability to dance their way through defences used their footwork to sidestep their way past the Whitehaven defence for a brace of converted tries and take Thunder to an eight-point advantage.

With the rain teeming out of the Tyneside sky, it was a lead that should have been simple to control, however an early kick aimed at pinning the visitors instead set up a grandstand finish as Whitehaven struck back with an opportunistic score from Brett Phillips.

With ten minutes to play, the combination of pressure and conditions ensured a scrappy conclusion, but it was Thunder who made sure of the points with just a minute to go.

Stepping inside and wrestling his way past the cover defenders, Young’s second try of the day was enough to see Newcastle home and the gap to the top of the table reduced to three points.

Newcastle Thunder:

Lewis Young, Misi Taulapapa, Joe Brown, Kieran Gill, Alex Clegg, Mikey Lewis, Nick Newman, Jared Blanke, Keal Carlile, Joel Edwards, Rhys Clarke, Conor Fitzsimmons, Harry Aldous, Evan Simons, Sam Luckley, Liam McAvoy, Jack Aldous

Tries: Clarke (19) Clegg (55) Young (60, 79) Lewis (68)

Goals: Lewis 3/5

Whitehaven: Chris Taylor, Jordan Burns, Jesse Joe Nandye, Jason Mossop, Dave Thompson, Sam Forrester, Callum Phillips, Marc Shackley, James Newton, Kris Coward, Brett Phillips, Jacob Moore, Tom Wilkinson, Dion Aiye, Carl Forster, Connor Holliday, Jordan Thompson

Tries: Parker (9) Moore (45) Phillips (70)

Goals: Moore 4/5

HT 6-8

Pens 9 / 11

Referee C. Worsley

Attendance 1,079