MATCH REPORT – Thunder promotion bid falls at final hurdle

Newcastle Thunder missed out on promotion to the Betfred Championship on Sunday afternoon, as Oldham Roughyeds ran out 18-14 winners in the League 1 playoff final. 

Thunder gave their all in an enthralling encounter and took the lead on three separate occasions, but chasing a four-point deficit in the closing stages thanks to the hosts 100% conversion rate, we’re unable to have their noses in front at the most critical juncture.

After a tentative opening, Newcastle took the lead after forcing an Oldham error whilst attacking the hosts’ line and earning a repeat set of six

Spreading the ball wide, Nick Newman found Lewis Young at full stretch who in turn lobbed a beautiful pass out to the wing to find Misi Taulapapa who dove in to finish.

A pair of knock-ons by Thunder while trying to play out of their half allowed Oldham to enjoy a period of pressure close to the visitors’ line and eventually take the lead through a converted try. 

Chipping ahead in the shadow of the posts, Danny Langtree won the race to the loose ball to dot down but it was the only score that the hosts would take from a prolonged period on the front foot.

Having limited the damage to be just two points behind, Alex Clegg sparked Newcastle into life on the half-hour with a break down the wing that took Thunder deep into the Oldham half, before a clever kick allowed both sides a breather as they packed down for a scrum restart.

With the half ending without a further score, the second half saw both sides taking a more attacking mindset.

Kicking into the wind, Oldham were trying to test Newcastle at the end of sets with high hanging kicks, but with a safe pair of hands in Lewis Young fielding the bombs, Thunder we’re finding themselves untroubled.

Playing down the hill and making plenty of yards on each tackle, a Rhys Clarke grubber kick gave Newcastle a repeat set after bobbling awkwardly and causing a knock-on, which from the resultant scrum, they got their noses back in front.

Back row Joel Edwards was the man to cross as he charged on to a short pass from for Quentin Laulu-Togaga’e before crashing over with a smile on his face to keep the momentum with Newcastle.

Aiming to make the most of the swing, Thunder tried to force a pass too early as they attempted to release Young for a fifty-metre blast to the line but instead turned the ball over from where the Roughyeds got back ahead.

Putting in a wide cross-field kick, Thunder were unable to field the high ball cleanly and as it fell back towards the hosts attacking line, Zack McComb was able to scoop up and cross.

It was the aerial battle that allowed Simon Finnigan’s side to strike back shortly after, as a high Nick Newman kick was left to bounce and Sam Luckley leapt highest to bat the ball back into the path of Taulapapa, from which the skipper bagged his brace.

Hitting back through a break down the left-wing, Jimmy Beckett made it a one try game with 18 minutes to play, with Newcastle seemingly having plenty left to give in search of the winning points.

They worked two superb chances that the Roughyeds did well to repel, with a Young break creating numbers out wide and only a well-timed intercept from Oldham preventing a score on the left edge and a last-ditch tackle into touch replenish an attack down the right.

But with the clock running down, Thunder were becoming increasingly hurried in their efforts to get back ahead and two half chances came to nought as Oldham frustrated the visitors.

Finding themselves in possession as the full-time hooter sounded, Clegg put boot to ball in an attempt to set up a footrace, but it instead bounced into touch to give the Roughyeds the win.

Newcastle Thunder

Lewis Young, Misi Taulapapa, Tyler Craig, Kieran Gill, Alex Clegg, Quentin Laulu-Togaga’e, Nick Newman, Liam McAvoy, Keal Carlile, Sam Luckley, Joel Edwards, Rhys Clarke, Harry Aldous, Evan Simons, Jack Aldous, Carne Doyle-Manga, Conor Fitzsimmons

Tries: Taulapapa (9, 56) Edwards (46)

Goals: Clarke 1/3

Oldham RLFC

Richie Hawkyard, Declan Kay, Zack McComb, Cameron Leeming, Kyran Johnson, Paul Crook, Dave Hewitt, Phil Joy, Gareth Owen, Scott Law Danny Bridge, Danny Langtree, Liam Bent, Jack Spencer, Matty Wilkinson, Emmerson Whittel, Jimmy Beckett

Tries: Langtree (14) McComb (52) Beckett (62)

Goals: Crook 3/3