MATCH REPORT – Keighley Cougars 22 – 32 Newcastle Thunder

Newcastle Thunder survived a spirited Keighley Cougars fightback to take a dogged 22-32 victory in the last game of the Betfred League 1 season and set up a first playoff match against Doncaster RLFC at Kingston Park Stadium this coming Sunday.

Thunder will now face a minimum of three games to earn promotion to the Betfred Championship for 2020 after Oldham RLFC secured second in the table with a win over Hunslet.

As has been commonplace this season Thunder got off the mark early, with wing Alex Clegg scoring in just the fourth minute as he finished of a fine break from Joel Edwards.

Breaking through the defence, the Aussie forward attempted to round the fullback and though he was successfully tackled, a quick play allowed the ball to be worked out wide, giving Clegg an easy stroll in.

Newcastle went close to a second off the kick off as strong carries from Muizz Mustapha and Sam Luckley drove them deep into Keighley’s territory, but despite gaining a repeat set form a Cougars penalty, they were successfully repelled by the hosts.

Despite the strong start, a succession of penalties and errors stopped Thunder from building on their impressive start and allowed Keighley to enjoy a prolonged period of pressure deep in the visitors territory. It was successfully weathered though and Newcastle extended their lead on 19 minutes as they crafted a try from under their own posts.

Carrying hard to get up to half way, Edwards made another telling break before finding the supporting Nick Newman and sending his compatriot in for the second try of the day.

Converted by Rhys Clarke for a ten point lead, the Cougars narrowed the deficit through Taylor Prell, but it was quickly cancelled out as Kieran Gill extended his lead as Thunder’s leading try scorer of the season with a simply worked converted try.

Though the Cougars has the last word of the second half and reduced the gap to four points thanks to Kieran Moran, Thunder exploded into the second half and spent the opening ten minutes camped on the Cougars line.

It failed to yield a score though and when Thunder conceded a penalty for a high tackle, the Cougars we’re able to square the game as Davey Dixon made the most of a pinball fifth tackle kick to dart over from close range.

With their tails up, the hosts took the lead off the restart after braking thorough and scorching away for a simple try under the posts, but despite the Cougars posing all manner of questions of the Thunder defence, the visitors were able to keep the hosts at bay.

Clegg’s second try of the day arrested his teams slide to get them back to within two points, before Rhys Clarke made it 22-a-piece with ten minutes to go, before Thunder made sure of the result with a strong finish.

A great run from Quentin Laulu Togaga’e set up Gill for his second of the day to get Newcastle back in front before the try of the game sealed the points for the Tynesiders.

Quick reactions from Lewis Young at the play the ball set up Nick Nemwan’s second try, as the fullback raced away into an acre of space and though he was closed down, a superb offload found Togaga’e, who then fed the Aussie half-back with a neat out the back pass for a try under the posts.

Clarke’s conversion gave a 10 point lead that they would not surrender, despite having to face one further meaningful period of Keighley pressure in the dying minutes.

Newcastle Thunder

Lewis Young, Misi Taulapapa,  Kieran Gill, Matty Wright, Alex Clegg, Nick Newman, Quentin Laulu Togaga’e, Joel Edwards, Aaron Ollett, Sam Luckley, Rhys Clarke, Conor Fitzsimmons, Muizz Mustapha, Evan Simons, Liam McAvoy, Harry Aldous, Jared Blanke

Tries: Clegg (4, 60) Newman (19, 74) Gill (26, 71)

Goals: Clarke 3/6, Wright 1/1

Keighley Cougars

Alfie Seeley, Davey Dixon, Taylor Prell, Macauley Hallett, Jordan Parry, Billy Gaylor, Jack Miller, Jack Coventry, James Feather, Harvey Hallas, Will Cooke, Jason Muranka, Aaron Levy, Kieran Moran, Chris Cullimore, Matthew Bailey, Mark Barlow

Tries: Prell (22, 51 ) Moran (39) Dixon (48)   

Goals Miller 3/4

HT 12 – 16

Attendance 825