Newcastle Thunder’s Good Friday fixture sees Barrow Raiders travel to Kingston Park, hoping to extend their winning start to the season.
Barrow are second in League 1, but have the same amount of points as table-toppers Toronto Wolfpack. They beat Workington Town 26-10 in round four while Thunder were handed their first defeat of the league season by North Wales Crusaders at Queensway Stadium.
Mick Mantelli’s men will be aiming to bounce back but it will be tough against a Raiders side who are rightly tipped for a successful season.
Newcastle have been poor in the last two weeks, picking up defeats against North Wales in the League 1 Cup as well as in the league itself. But Lewis Young and Ali Blair gave the Tyneside club a perfect start against the Crusaders with tries inside 19 minutes.
The hosts responded soon after courtesy of an Alex Thompson four pointer but Mike Grady’s men went into the break 8-6 down. After the restart, Simon Atherton and Tommy Johnson both touched down for the Welsh side who were 18-8 up in the final quarter.
Benn Hardcastle cut the deficit to four points with a converted score 13 minutes from time but North Wales sealed the win with two tries in three minutes. Lee Hudson and Jack Houghton were the try-scorers for the Crusaders, who may have turned a corner following an encouraging fortnight while Newcastle have been left with work to do.
Barrow claimed bragging rights in the Cumbrian derby against Workington. Lewis Charnock, who kicked five goals from as many attempts, was in the thick of the action from the start as he scored the opening try before being sin-binned.
The yellow card came after his side had been given a team warning but despite being a man down, the Raiders defence stayed solid. Within a minute of Charnock returning to the fray, centre Andy Litherland extended the hosts’ lead with a try in the 33rd minute.
Things got even better after the break for Barrow as Dan Abram touched down. In response, Jamie Doran and Ed Chamberlain both struck to give Workington a fighting chance at 18-10 down on the hour. However, Barrow didn’t panic and a try from James Duerden and a Charnock penalty made sure that the spoils stayed at Craven Park.
The half-back partnership of Jamie Dallimore and Charnock is something Newcastle need to keep tabs on as both players are capable of great performances. Charnock has played in the Championship quite recently and he is showing his worth in the third tier for the Raiders this season.
Other key players for Barrow include Oliver Wilkes and Jarrad Stack. Wilkes has a wealth of big game experience which will certainly come in handy while Stack was one of the reasons why Workington had an extended stay in the second tier.
Newcastle can combat the threats that Barrow bring with them, and if they’re to stay in close contact in the table then a win is essential. Benn Hardcastle and Tom Shaw were the halves for Newcastle against Crusaders, with Danny Nicklas coming off the bench.
Mantelli has good players to choose from in the creative positions, with Hardcastle bound to be an ever-present this year as Newcastle look to climb the table and challenge for promotion. Brett Waller, Liam McAvoy and Vincent Rennie are three forwards who will need to have big games against the Raiders if the hosts are to pull off a big victory.
The last two weeks haven’t gone to plan for Newcastle but they will be wanting to leave the defeats in the past and start picking up competition points against the teams around them, such as Barrow.