Newcastle Thunder 48 – 12 Hemel Stags

Newcastle Thunder moved up to fifth place in rugby league’s Kingstone Press League 1 on Sunday following an ultimately comfortable 48-12 win over bottom side Hemel Stags at Kingston Park Stadium.

A nine try showing allowed Jason Payne’s men to maintain their push towards the Super 8s and condemn the Stags to their 12th consecutive defeat of the season as the mid-season split looms ever closer.

And while not a complete performance by any means, elements of Thunder’s play was up there with the best they have produced since their move to Kingston Park.

Having weathered an initial barrage from the visitors, Thunder made their first impression on the scoreboard from their first meaningful foray into Hemel territory, with Joe Brown crossing for a try that owed much to fullback Lewis Young and centre Derrell Olpherts, as the pair combined down the wing to hold off Hemel defenders and break out of their own half and lay the foundations from where Brown was played in with two simple passes.

A break down the wing on the next set almost had Brown in for his second score of the day, but a fumble forward saw possession handed back to the Stags and allowed them to level the scores when they crossed for their first try of the day on 14 mins.

Making use of penalty awarded at a ruck, the Stags took it quickly allowing them to stretch the Thunder defence before a high floating pass was put to Josh Casey on the wing with an un-opposed run to the line.

Stubborn resistance from the visitors and some sloppy execution from the hosts meant it would remain six all until former Castleford man Stephen Snitch managed to kick-start Thunder’s game before a brutal five minutes before half time saw Thunder run in three excellent tries.

Getting the blitz underway was fullback Lewis Young, who after making a superb break from deep within his own half, found winger Ali Blair running an excellent supporting line to give him an option as the Stags defence closed in.

The pair combined well to force the cover defenders to track rather than committing to a tackle allowing for some neat interplay between them as the cut up the meters up to the try-line, with Young the man to finish the move.

A trademark show and go effort from Benn Hardcastle gave Thunder a healthy 20-6 lead with seconds of the half remaining, before that was enhanced further by Brown’s second of the day.

It was a superb score, with Olpherts displaying some of the more subtle elements of his game as he danced his way around defenders and put in a powerful pass to keep the ball alive as the hooter sounded.

Opening up space down the wing, Brown exploited the overlap to send his team into the break at 24-6

After finishing the first half with a flourish, Thunder started the second strongly and took reward for their efforts nine minutes in as Evan Simons broke the line on an angled run for a converted try, but it failed to open the floodgates, as Thunder’s eagerness to score saw the mistakes from the first half creep back into the hosts’ game.

Following a penalty concession close to their line approaching the hour, Hemel took a well worked score through Jono Burns but it would be the last time they were able to engineer anything to trouble the hosts, who instead galvanised and added valuable points for to their tally.

Winger Blair got the ball rolling as he finished off a searing break from Lewis Young inside Thunder’s own half. Last ditch defence from the Stags stopped it from being a brace for the fullback and allowed the duo to each take a try from their working together during the afternoon, before Welsh international Matty Barron got his name onto the score-sheet with a short range effort that saw him burst through two tacklers to score.

The afternoon was rounded out thanks to Derrell Olpherts who latched on to a kick through from halfback Danny Nicklas, with the ball sitting up perfectly for centre to pick out of the air.

Thunder now face arguably the toughest of their remaining run in fixtures with a trip to face Doncaster next Sunday.

Newcastle Thunder

Lewis Young, Ali Blair, Dan Parker, Derrell Olpherts, Joe Brown, Danny Nicklas, Benn Hardcastle, Vincent Rennie, Aaron Teroi, Matty Barron, Harry Aldous, Stephen Snitch, Sam Luckley, Jack Aldous, Rhys Clarke, Liam McAvoy, Evan Simons

Try Scorers: Brown (7, 40) Snitch (24), Young (35, 67), Hardcastle (39), Simons (49) Barron (70) Olpherts (79)

Goal Scorers: Hardcastle (7, 39, 49, 67, 70, 89)

Hemel Stags

Mitch Vincent, Josh Casey, Reece Williams, Danny Lawton, Darren Forde, Mark Barlow, Lewis Fairhurst, Corey Hanson, Jonny Burns, Daniel Hawksworth, James Thornton, Jack O’Brien, Brett Whitehead, Scott Lee, Sam Crowther, Munashe Fumhanda, Wayne Jowett

Try Scorers: Casey (14),  Burns (54)

Goal Scorers: Vincent (14, 54)

HT 24-6

Attendance – 620