Newcastle Thunder 18 – 16 Workington Town

Newcastle Thunder showed plenty of resilience to advance to the fourth round of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup as they fought back from 0-16 down to take an 18-16 win.

The tie was settled eight minutes from time by the boot of halfback Benn Hardcastle, with a calmly taken penalty that was backed up by tenacity in attack and defence as the clock ran down, as Thunder booked their place in Tuesday night’s draw.

The early exchanges gave no hint of the troubles the hosts would face in the first half, with Thunder again fast starters with their attack looking potent and their defensive efforts proving particularly eye-catching as they restricted Town’s progress with great effectiveness.

Against the run of play, but no less deserved Workington were the first to trouble the scoreboard with an individual try for Jamie Doran who arced his run perfectly to get around the Thunder defence before a half-step wrong-footed Lewis Young to give the half back an unopposed run in from 30m out.

Ten minutes later and the West Cumbrian extended their lead thanks to Joe Hambley, whose dive at a bobbling ball found its mark before those of two Thunder defenders following a passage of play that saw Newcastle’s efforts to hit back thwarted by a lack of precision in attack.

Rocking on their feet, Workington had appeared to deliver a knockout blow with what would prove to be their best score of the day, as their middles sold Thunder’s defence a dummy and allowed Callum Phillips to finish off some neat interplay from the players he was supporting.

Needing something to arrest Workington’s momentum, it was Lewis Young who provided as he latched on to a nice pass and produced one of his trademark arcing lines to go over in the corner before Hardcastle nailed his touchline conversion.

Following stern words in the changing rooms at half-time, Thunder emerged from the break re-energised and immediately started battering away at Town’s defensive line.

It was an effort that drew almost immediate reward thanks to winter signing Jack Aldous who spotted a gap under the posts after Thunder saw the tackle count reset following a handling error from the visitors.

The kick from in front of the posts posed no problems to Hardcastle and with the deficit down to just four points, it was Thunder who were now in the ascendancy with their tails firmly up.

Errors were still creeping in though and were keeping the game tight before a brilliantly placed 40/20 kick from Hardcastle provided a platform from which Thunder were finally able to square up the tie.

Derrell Olpherts used his strength to great effect to cross for the try, but it was a score that also owed plenty to Cook Island international Aaron Teroi, whose clean and quick passing allowed Danny Nicklas the time he needed to dab the ball into space for the centre to ground.

With no replay’s in the competition, the prospect of golden point extra time sparked both sides into final flourishes in an attempt to seal the match in regular time.

First up, the visitors made a searing break from within their own half only for the ball to be lost forward when tackled 15m short of the line before Thunder made a superb break of their own with ten minutes.

Hooker Evan Simons, who had enjoyed a typically solid performance, sliced his way through Workington’s line alongside Young. Finding himself facing three defenders and unable to offload to the fullback, he worked hard at the ruck to win the penalty that Hardcastle stepped up to sink.

With the two points added, Thunder continued to press, although slightly lethargic play the balls indicated they were doing what they needed to in order to take the win and when a penalty was awarded with just 90 seconds left, they were home and hosed.

Hardcastle went close with the final kick of the game, with his effort just hitting the post and falling the wrong side, but with the hooter sounding as the ball hit the deck, it was of little consequence as Thunder’s Challenge Cup adventure continues.

Newcastle Thunder Squad

Lewis Young, Joe Brown, Dan Parker, Derrell Olpherts, Peter Fox, Danny Nicklas, Benn Hardcastle, Corbyn Kilday, Evan Simons, Liam McAvoy, Harry Aldous, Rhys Clarke, Jack Aldous, Aaron Teroi, Vincent Rennie, Brett Waller, Matty Barron

Thunder Try Scorers: Young (27) J Aldous (42) Olpherts (60)

Thunder Goal Scorer: Hardcastle (27, 42)

Thunder Penalty Scorer: Hardcastle (72)

Workington Town Squad

Theerapol Ritson, Joe Hambley, Ed Chamberlain, Macauley Davies, Scott Rooke, Jamie Doran, Stuart Howarth, Kris Coward, Callum Phillips, Stevie Scholey, Brett Phillips, Kyle Shelford, Perry Singleton, Sam Dowsett, Carl Forber, Tom Curwen, Conor Fitzsimmons

Workington try scorers: Doran (11) Hambley (17) Phillips (21)

Workington goal scorers: Chamberlain (11, 21)