MATCH REPORT – Newcastle Thunder 16 – 26 Bradford Bulls

The Magic Night Out delivered everything it promised in 2018, as a crowd of 4,137 saw Newcastle Thunder go toe to toe with Bradford Bulls on Friday evening in an epic Betfred League 1 encounter at Kingston Park Stadium.

A fixture that in days of old used to grace Super League served up a thrilling game that would not have been out of place as part of the Magic Weekend at St James’ Park and underlined the quality and competitiveness of the third tier.

On a gorgeous May evening, the tone was set early as both sides attacked from the off and gave the assembled masses plenty to cheer.

Thunder arguably enjoyed the better of the early exchanges as they backed up potent attacks with aggressive defence to give themselves a foothold in the Bulls half.

Their efforts drew fair reward on 15 mins after enforcing four back to back sets on the Bulls through Tee Ritson, with Thunders fullback cutting back inside to cross for a converted try.

The advantage was doubled moments later after Tuoyo Egodo made a superb break in midfield established a strong attacking platform for Thunder, from which Tyler Craig profited.

Having been on top for the opening quarter of an hour, the following 15mins saw the Bulls show some of what has made them one of the form teams in the league this season with two converted tries squaring the scores with half an hour gone.

The second of those scores was of particular quality, as Dane Chisholm salvaged what looked for all the world a knock on by connecting his boot to the ball for a cross-field kick that Ethan Ryan plucked out of the air to score.

An evenly balanced half drew to a close in the visitors favour following Rhys Clarke’s sin-binning as a converted try for George Flanagan gave Bradford a 12-18 half-time lead.

After a frenetic first half the second began in the same vein and it was Bradford who opened the scoring through Chisholm, with the half-back finishing off a Ross Peltier line break by avoiding the last defender.

The extension of the visitors lead saw the intensity of the game rise, with Thunder digging in and asking some serious questions of the league leaders defence.

A loss of discipline heading into the final stages of the game saw both sides reduced to 12 men, as Thunder’s Jack Aldous and Bradford’s Dalton Grant saw red for throwing punches however that would not be the end of the drama.

With five minutes to go, another strong attack from Thunder had a clinical edge as a well placed grubbed kick and a superb line onto it allowed Edogo his third try for Thunder this season.

Setting up the grandstand finish craved by the majority in the stadium, Adam Brook’s conversion attempt was agonisingly shy of the mark, though it was still all to play for with five to go.

Despite making concerted efforts to get the score that would take them into striking distance, Thunder couldn’t find the telling break and it was Bradford who had the final say as Chisholm chipped over a penalty kick after Newcastle’s markers weren’t set.

And while the result was a case of what might have been, the intensity of the performance will give Thunder plenty of heart for their upcoming fixtures.