MATCH REPORT – Thunder 38 – Cougars 12

Newcastle Thunder were in a free-scoring mood as they booked passage into the second round of rugby league’s 1895 Cup on Saturday afternoon, with a 38-12 win over Keighley Cougars in the new look competition.

Thunder cut loose after a solid first half to make sure of their place as Betfred Championship sides enter the competition and continue their resurgence under the stewardship of Simon Finnigan.

In a scrappy but entertaining start, both sides went close to scoring in the early exchanges, with the Cougars held up over the line just two minutes in by tough Thunder defence, before the home side beat themselves on their first meaningful attack, with a kick to the wing when a pass would have done the job.

Having missed that early chance Newcastle opened the scoring in the tenth minute, with a clever chip through turning the Keighley defence and giving three of the home side the chance to chase.

Winger Mo Agoro was the man to win the footrace and open his team’s account in a good response after the hosts went down to 12-men on their preceding defensive set, as scrum-half Remy Marginet was given ten minutes in the sin bin after kicking out at the ruck against a slow-moving Cougars man.

Following another aggressive defensive set in which Thunder restricted the Cougars to the half-way line, the hosts were able to punish a handling error as they made plenty of territory through the middles.

Spotting space out wide, the ball was worked along the line and into the hands of an onrushing Alex Clegg, who had all the space the needed to bag another impressively acrobatic try, his ninth of the season to date.

Though Cougars hit back with a converted try after debutant Dan Coates went close to his debut senior try, Thunder were enjoying more of the territory and extended their lead on the cusp of half-time as Marginet made up for his early misdemeanours with a superbly taken try.

Selling his defenders a superb dummy, the French international then scampered around the remaining defence to score under the posts.

Leading 14-6 after the break and having weathered a particularly committed attack from the Cougars, Newcastle closed out the game in a brutal five-minute spell with three converted tries taking them well out of Keighley’s reach.

It began with Connor Fitzsimmons breaking the line on halfway and feeding Kieran Gill into an unopposed run to the line and was continued by Agoro’s second of the day, as he strode out of an attempted tackle and into clear air.

The blitz was completed three minutes later and again came via the left edge, as Gill turned provider and gave a neat scoring pass to Clegg, who continues to grow in stature since graduating from the club’s academy at the start of the season.

It was another club junior that completed Thunder’s scoring for the afternoon with a quarter of an hour to go as Niall Sidney broke down the flank from which much of Thunder’s glory came, taking a pin-point pass to add try number seven of the day.

Though the Cougars managed a late consolation score it was overall a hugely positive display from Newcastle, though head coach Simon Finnigan will have identified areas to address ahead of the return to League 1 action, against Keighley on May 19.

Newcastle Thunder

Lewis Young, Mo Agoro, Joe Brown, Kieran Gill, Alex Clegg, Remy Marginet, Dan Coates, Jared Blanke, Aaron Ollett, Liam McAvoy, Rhys Clarke, Conor Fitzsimmons, Sam Luckley, Carne Doyle-Manga, Alex Rowe, Evan Simons, Niall Sidney

Tries: Agoro (10, 52) Clegg (17, 55) Marginet (36) Gill (50) Sidney (63)

Goals: Coates 0/2 Marginet 5/5

Keighley Cougars

Alfred Seeley, David Dixon, Alex Williams, Macauley Hallett, Matthew Welham, Billy Gaylor, Jack Milner, Jack Coventry, Luke Million, Jamie Thackray. Aaron Levy, Jason Muranka, Josh Lynam, Kieran Moran, Chris Cullimore, Jack Arnold, Lewis Wray

Tries: Welham (25) Cullimore (76)

Goals: Miller 2/2

Attendance 340