Workington Town 20 – 24 Newcastle Thunder

Newcastle Thunder made it three wins from three competitive fixtures in 2017 taking a well earned 20-24 victory away to Workington Town on Sunday afternoon.

Two tries from Evan Simons, a single score for Ali Blair and 12 points from the boot of Benn Hardcastle were enough to seal the spoils for the Tyneside’s in a game where a lead of more than one converted score was never had by either side.

As in last weekend’s Ladbrokes Challenge Cup tie at Kingston Park, a tentative start saw the sides exchanging sets and creating chances to open the scoring but leave those points out on the field.

Thunder broke the deadlock on seven minutes thanks to a trademark score from Evan Simons, who took advantage of distraction in the Workington defensive line to snipe his way over from a play the ball in the shadow of the Workington sticks.

The former Widnes junior showed a decent level of strength to force his way over the line and get his side off the mark, while Hardcastle’s conversion was a mere formality.

The best part of a quarter of an hour went by with plenty of huff and puff but no tangible reward for both sides, before the hosts pounced on some poor communication in Thunder’s defence following a kick through, to hit back through Callum Phillips and a conversion by Carl Forber.

In what would prove to be a flurry of points in the closing stages of the half, Workington assumed the lead four minutes later thanks to a try from Phil Joseph and second conversion from Forber, before Thunder winger Ali Blair danced his way to the try-line and take a great finish in the corner.

With a difficult conversion sunk by Hardcastle, it was all square at the break before two successful penalties early in the second half allowed Thunder to take a four-point lead, one that would prove to be short-lived though, as the hosts levelled through Macauley Davies.

As in the first half, further opportunities to assume a lead were squandered by both sides and as the clock ticked away, it was adding further gravity to the pass or break that stuck.

With 17 minutes to go, Simons bagged his second of the afternoon with Hardcastle duly converting, before the halfback nudged the visitors further in front with just three minutes to go with a third successful penalty.

With very little time left, when the hosts were penalised on halfway following the restart, Hardcastle had little hesitation in pointing towards the goal, as even an unsuccessful effort would eat up valuable seconds and move Thunder closer to an important win.

It was a tactic that instead set up a grandstand finish as not only did the kick miss its target, but Workington were able to break the length of the field and steal a crucial try through Joe Hambley.

Declining the kick in order to try and work another score in the dying embers of the game, Workington threw everything they had at Thunder, but Mick Mantelli’s side were able to ride out the storm, take the win and extend their unbeaten streak in competitive fixtures to 13 games.

Newcastle Thunder Squad

v Workington Town – Sunday 5th March

Derrell Olpherts, Ali Blair, Joe Brown, Tyler Craig, Peter Fox, Danny Nicklas, Benn Hardcastle, Liam McAvoy, Evan Simons, Rhys Clarke, Harry Aldous, Dan Parker, Jack Aldous, Aaron Teroi, Sam Luckley, Vincent Rennie, Brett Waller.

Try Scorers – Simons (10, 63) Blair (38)

Goal Scorers – Hardcastle (10, 38, 48, 50, 63, 80)

Workington Squad

Ed Chamberlain, Joe Hambley, Jack Higginson, Macauley Davies, Jason Mossop, Carl Forber, Callum Phillips, Stevie Scholey, Sam Dowsett, Tom Curwen, Brett Phillips, Phil Joseph, Stuart Howarth, Jamie Doran, Kris Coward, Conor Fitzsimmons, Alex Szostack.

Try Scorers – Phillips (29), Joseph (33), Davies (51), Hambley (80)

Goal Scorer – Forber (29, 33)