Newcastle Thunder started their League 1 campaign with a gritty 24-20 win over Workington Town at the Zebra Claims Stadium on Sunday.
For the second week in a row, Mick Mantelli’s side edged past the Cumbrians and this time they had Evan Simons to thank for an instinctive brace. The win means that Thunder are now 13 games unbeaten stretching back to last year, when they won the League 1 Shield.
Simons broke the deadlock on seven minutes as he sniped over from dummy-half. Benn Hardcastle, who was in good kicking form during the 80 minutes in Cumbria, converted for a 6-0 lead.
It took until the 27th minute for the hosts to get on the scoreboard. Stand-in scrum-half Callum Phillips touched down for Workington, with Carl Forber adding the extras to level matters. The home fans didn’t have to wait long for their side’s second try of the contest as they took the lead through Phil Joseph soon after.
Yet again, Forber was on target from the tee. The teams would go into half-time all square, though, courtesy of a score from Thunder flyer Ali Blair, who danced his way to four points. Hardcastle superbly converted from the touchline.
In the early stages of the second period, Newcastle made the most of penalties inside of Town territory. Two goals from the boot of Hardcastle put the Tyneside outfit in front by four points but their lead was soon to be eradicated.
Workington centre Macauley Davies made amends for a missed opportunity moments before as he crossed from short range. The conversion was unsuccessful and with the final quarter looming, there was nothing to separate the two sides at 16-16.
With 15 minutes remaining, Thunder grabbed their third and last try of the game through Simons, who was the beneficiary of a few football skills from his Thunder teammates. Hardcastle converted and then, as the game was nearing its conclusion, the half-back also kicked a penalty to make it 24-16 to Newcastle.
He tried his best to extend the advantage with another penalty but the attempt missed and Town made the visitors pay for it as they broke downfield to score through Joe Hambley. The conversion was declined as they were eagerly searching for an equaliser but it didn’t arrive, to the joy of Newcastle.
A great victory for Thunder, especially when you consider Town have recently been relegated but have maintained a strong squad for life in the third tier. Mantelli’s men face London Skolars at Kingston Park next weekend and they will go into the match with a lot of confidence.