Finnigan hails defensive resolve

Simon Finnigan hailed his side’s resolute defence for their progression into the Coral Challenge Cup’s fourth round, as they overcame the elements and a determined Keighley Cougars to set up a meeting with Siddal ARLFC this weekend.

Finnigan’s men also had to contend with being down to 12-men for the best part of an hour after Colton Roche’s red card and though the line was breached twice, Thunder’s head coach remained a happy man.

Speaking post-match, Finnigan said: “I was really proud of our efforts, the way we defended throughout the game, especially on our goal line was excellent.  The effort and application to keep them out was brilliant. We were down to 12 men for I think 60 minutes, so in those conditions it was a huge effort to basically keep them to two scores.

“A lot of that was down to our contact. Our middles were good, on our edges we made good decisions and I just thought our attitude to defence was fantastic.  It was as good as I have seen since I have been to the club and that attitude and desire to defend, I was really happy with.”

Saturday’s match also marked the competitive debut of talented academy prospect Alex Donaghy, with the Under 18s player coming in out of position on the wing.

Acquitting himself well throughout, including some telling defence efforts, it was an assured display in torrid conditions that Finnigan says the youngster, who was named in the England National Academy Performance squad last week, should be proud.

“Alex did everything asked of him and I thought he had a good game. It was a big, tough challenge for him in his first start, it’s a hard place for anyone to go and play a game of rugby and particularly in those conditions.

“He was out of position and he should be pleased with himself.  He was probably a little nervous going into the game because of all that, but we have every confidence in him.  He is a good young kid and he should be happy with what he did.

“We’ve started having him train a bit more with the first team and that is through the potential that we saw last season and he has gone up a couple of levels.

“He is still an U18 player, he’s not going to be part of the first team squad every week, but he certainly is a player we will use when we think it is appropriate.  He still has a lot to learn but he is going well and is a good young kid.”

With progression to the next round secured, attention now turns to Saturday’s 2pm kick off against the Yorkshire amateur side, with Finnigan insistent that Siddal will provide a real test for his team on their home turf.

“It’s a challenge, they have already turned Newcastle over previously and when I was with Toronto, they went very close to turning us over and I think we only won the game very, very late on.

“Siddal are a good side and are right up there.  They will be hard to beat, and the game will be physical and its almost a good thing that some of our lads have experienced that shock off them. We won’t be taking anything for granted and we will be giving them all the respect they deserve.