Newcastle Thunder play their first home match in this year’s League 1 on Sunday when London Skolars make the long journey from the capital to Kingston Park.
The Thunder go into the contest following an opening day 24-20 victory over Workington Town while London suffered a heavy defeat against Toronto Wolfpack, the first ever transatlantic sports team.
Mick Mantelli’s Newcastle side will be confident heading into the round two contest, and they have every right to be after progressing in the League 1 Cup and Challenge Cup as well as getting their league campaign off to a good start.
Evan Simons was vital for Thunder last weekend as the dummy-half bagged an important brace to help Thunder over the winning line against the recently relegated Town. Also, the kicking game of Benn Hardcastle really came to the fore too as the scrum-half kicked six out of seven goals, registering half of the Thunder’s points in the tie. The Tyneside club will be hoping for a more straightforward afternoon against the Skolars but Jermaine Coleman has slowly built the capital side into a competitive team.
Every team will struggle against Toronto this year with the amount of high quality players they have in their squad and London were the first to fall as they were beaten 76-0 at New River. Despite this, the Skolars will want to remain upbeat as they look to gain their first points of the season against Newcastle. Having the likes of Kam Pearce-Paul, Dave Williams, Lamont Bryan and Erjon Dollapi in their ranks means that Thunder can’t underestimate the Skolars, although the hosts will go into the match as favourites.
If Newcastle are to come out of Sunday’s game unscathed, they will need to keep an eye on Charlie Lawrence and Mikey Bishay in the halves. Lawrence, who is a hooker by trade, partnered Bishay for the match against Toronto and even though they didn’t get over the try-line, London threatened the Wolfpack defence on occasions. The duo, alongside their Skolars teammates, will be wanting to make amends and Newcastle need to be wary of the danger they pose.
The Thunder are on a roll at the moment and they will be looking forward to the weekend in a bid to extend their winning run and keep the momentum rolling. Coach Mantelli has built a good squad and one that may be able to threaten the likes of Barrow, Keighley and Doncaster for a place in the higher echelons of the table. A victory on Sunday won’t go too far in the long run but at this stage of the season, it’s all about picking up the points and knocking off teams especially on home turf.