York City Knights 24 – 26 Newcastle Thunder

Newcastle Thunder booked their place in the Kingstone Press League 1 play offs with a determined performance away to York City Knights, that allowed the Tynesiders to take advantage of other results going their way and seal fifth place in the table.

Jason Payne’s side headed into the weekend in seventh place and needed not only to beat fourth placed York, but have both Doncaster and Keighley Cougars take nothing from their final Super 8 fixtures.

Part one of that equation settled in Thunder’s favour in Toronto on Saturday evening, the Kingston Park club were as in control of their destiny as they could be and made an assured start to the quest at Bootham Crescent.

With the opening exchanges seeing neither side particularly fluid in their attacks thanks to handling errors caused by the pouring rain, it was Thunder who struck first on ten minutes through Evan Simons.

Having been put on the front foot by strong runs from Liam McAvoy and Jack Aldous a set prior, Thunder played themselves up to the shadow of the post, from where the hooker employed his favoured dart from the play the ball to cross.

The visitors enjoyed another good attacking set but after conceding a penalty 20 meters from their own line, found themselves back level as York played through the tackles and eventually created space for Andy Ellis to cross.

Despite both sides showing plenty of endeavour, neither were able to establish a foothold and build any meaningful pressure as handling errors stopped any real flow being established and when Thunder regained the lead, it came following a turn over created by a knock on.

A big hit on half way dislodged the ball from York hands that co-captain Rhys Clarke pounced on and shipped out to his fellow skipper Joe Brown, before he released Dan Parker into space.

Faced with two defenders in front, the winger put in a clever kick that the Knights were forced to carry into touch in order to snuff out the threat, which bought them only momentarily respite as from the resultant restart, Thunder were able to play in Lewis Young for a try.

After repelling more strong attacks from the Knights, a superb 40/20 from half back Benn Hardcastle on 36 minutes laid the platform for Thunder to score their third, thanks to another short range dart from replacement hooker Aaron Teroi.

In the context of the half, as 6-16 half time score marked a good return for the visitors, so when Super League bound centre Derrell Olpherts broke through a tackle on half way and cantered in for an unconverted try, 6-20 seemed comfortable.

Despite starting the second half strongly, Thunder conceded the opening try of the half and when they were reduced to 12 men following the sin-binning of Parker, the Knights seized upon the extra space created in the Thunder defensive line to get within two points of their visitors.

Rather than cause any panic in the Thunder ranks, the score served to allow them to regain their composure and after forcing repeat defensive sets onto the Knights, Thunder were back to an eight point lead thanks to Young’s second try of the game.

A breakaway try for the Knights with seven minutes to go set up a nervy finale, but Thunder have developed a skill for closing games out in recent weeks and marshalled their way to an away match against Barrow Raiders next weekend.

Newcastle Thunder

Tom Shaw, Ali Blair, Derrell Olpherts, Joe Brown, Dan Parker, Lewis Young, Benn Hardcastle, Liam McAvoy, Evan Simons, Callum Bustin, Harry Aldous, Rhys Clarke, Jack Aldous, Sam Luckley, Vincent Rennie, Aaron Teroi, Matty Barron

Try Scorers – Simons (10) Young (30, 68) Teroi (38) Olpherts (39)

Goal Scorers – Hardcastle (10, 38, 68)

York City Knights

Liam Harris, Nev Morrison, Ben Dent, Adam Swift, Tommy Saxton, Connor Robinson, Harry Tyson Wilson, Ronan Dixon, Andy Ellis, Chris Siddons, Jordan Cox, Liam Thompson, Tim Spears, Harry Carter, Ryan Mallinder, Will Jubb, Joe Porter

Try Scorers – Ellis (20) Carter (50) Morrison (58) Swift (77)

Goal Scorers – Robinson (20, 50, 58, 77)