MATCH REPORT: Thunder 34 – 4 Doncaster

Newcastle Thunder booked a place in the Betfred League 1 play-off final with a superb performance at a sopping Kingston Park Stadium on Sunday lunchtime, as they put Doncaster RLFC to the sword in an impressive 34-4 win.

After coming up short against the same opposition in the first round of the playoffs two weeks ago, Thunder were a different side in this Preliminary Final, as they played with precision and efficiency to make light of tricky conditions.

They started brightly and dominated the opening exchanges, going close to an opening try after just three minutes as Misi Taulapapa was played in from his wing, before the skipper set the platform for his side’s opening try on their next attacking set, singling out a not square marker and earning a penalty that took them deep into the Dons half.

Kieran Gill was the man to cross as a tip on from Lewis Young opened the Don’s defence, with the young centre able to shrug his way past the initial tackler before powering through two covering defenders to dot down for his 26th try of the season.

It was a try that saw Gill take the outright record for most tries scored for Thunder in a single season, having equalled Matty Daylight’s 20-year-old accolade last weekend.

Looking to fight back, Kyle Kesik put forward his case to switch over to football with some impressive ball control as he kicked ahead to gain some good field position, but Alex Clegg dealt with the threat well to secure the wet ball cleanly and send his team back onto the attack.

Working two angles off a penalty in midfield took the hosts up to the Doncaster line with some big carries from the forwards including local man Sam Luckley, allowed Keal Carlile to snipe over from dummy half.

After being on the back foot for most of the opening quarter of an hour, Doncaster began to pose some defences questions of their hosts but were unable to engineer a try as Newcastle rode out the pressure, before using a penalty on halfway to extend their lead on the half-hour.

Keeping the ball in hand, Young changed the direction of his run and then straightened his line to streak past three defenders as Thunder went out to an 18-0 lead that they took into half time.

Having controlled the first half, it was a disappointing opening to the second for Thunder as former England international Rangi Chase scored on Doncaster’s first attack and after losing two big leads to the Dons earlier this season, the 480 hardy souls in the ground could have been forgiven for any worries the try might have raised.

Thunder though weren’t going to let themselves be denied an appearance in a first final since 2016 and responded with good sets that saw Alex Clegg and Liam McAvoy go close to scoring, but a forward pass and stubborn Doncaster resistance ensured that the lead remained a fourteen point one.

After successfully stretching the Don’s defence, Gill added his second of the day after as he finished off the run of Quentin Laulu-Togaga’e, who had enough time to feed the centre with the scoring pass for a converted try.

Thunder kept the scoreboard ticking over as Clarke sunk a penalty for an off the ball incident before another penalty on halfway allowed the hosts to make another foray deep into the Dons half.

It was a position that allowed Gill to turn provider as he slipped a sublime ball out the back that made its way out to Clegg’s wing and allowed the youngster to take Thunder beyond the 30-point mark.

Doncaster tried to apply some late pressure, but it was Newcastle who enjoyed the final word, as Gill charged towards the Dons line and sold his marker a superb dummy to bring up his hat-trick.

Newcastle Thunder

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

Tries: Gill (6, 59,75) Carlile (12) Young (27) Clegg (68)

Goals: Clarke 5/7

Doncaster RLFC

Jordan Howden, Matthew Chrimes, Connor Bower, Jason Tali, Sam Doherty, Rangi Chase, Matty Beharrell, Levy Nzoungou, Kyle Kesik, Ryan Boyle, Brad Foster, Frankie Mariano, Brandan Wilkinson, Watson Boas, Bradley England, Thomas Halliday, Connor Scott

Tries: Chase (42)

Goals: Beharrell 0/1