Newcastle Thunder 28 – 16 Hemel Stags

A youthful Newcastle Thunder side ensured the club completed its pre-season schedule with a win on Saturday evening, with a pleasing 28 – 16 win over Hemel Stags at Kingston Park Stadium.

Fielding a side featuring 10 players from the North East, it was a good work out for Jason Payne’s side, with the Stags providing solid opposition and ensuring the young Thunder side earned their win.

On a cold and damp evening, the opening exchanges offered mixed fortunes for Thunder. On a positive note, their first attacking set offered immediate reward thanks to a converted try from Vincent Rennie.

Having broken the Stags defensive line in the middle of the park, the Cook Island international was able to surge forward and burst through the visitors last ditch defensive effort to open the scoring with just two minutes played, with Tom Shaw converting.

Having enjoyed a let-off on the Stags first set, when a Louis Sheriff try was chalked off for a forward pass in the build-up, Thunder suffered a set-back with 10 minutes gone when Sam Blake was forced from the field with a broken jaw.

Following a fairly even spell, Thunder extended their lead with a quarter of the match gone through Tom Capper, with the winger finishing off a well-crafted try in the North-West corner as quick hands worked the ball to his flank.

With the touchline conversion wide, the hosts assumed a 16-0 lead five minutes from the half time thanks to Liam Richmond, with another pacy attack from Thunder opening up the Hemel defence.

Looking good for their lead, Hemel proved they weren’t just providing numbers to run at for Thunder by emulating the hosts start to the match, with a quick-fire score of their own in the opening minutes of the second forty.

Regrouping well, Thunder asked plenty of questions of the Stags in the sets following and cancelled out Hemel’s closing of the gap on 51 minutes through Ben Pointer, with the new signing working well around the fringes of the ruck to burrow over for a short range score.

Lapses of discipline laid the foundations for the evening’s remaining tries, with Hemel striking five minutes later, before Pointer secured his brace with just a quarter of an hour to play.

The visitors had the final word six minutes from time to take the scores to 28-16, but for Thunder and the coaches, it was a satisfactory evening that shows the depth of talent that the club is now beginning to produce and call upon.

Thunder are next in action on Sunday 18 February against West Wales Raiders for the first fixture in the 2018 Betfred League 1 season.