Mick Mantelli hailed an important two points as Newcastle Thunder launched into the 2017 Kingstone Press League 1 season with an impressive 20-24 win away to Workington Town.
Thunder and Town engaged in a gritty game at Derwent Park with neither side enjoying a lead greater than one converted score throughout with Thunder ultimately grateful to the boot of Benn Hardcastle as they extended their unbeaten run in competitive fixtures to 13 games.
It is a result that Mantelli predicts few teams will emulate in 2017 and one that the boss was pleased with.
Speaking to ThunderRugby.com Mantelli said: “It was a really gritty performance. We found ourselves under a bit of pressure in the first half with a double figure penalty count, but the lads dug in well and I’m really pleased to bring the two points back with us.
“We knew it was going to be a heavy pitch, which didn’t suit the like of Vinnie and Brett and we lost Jack Aldous early on with a suspected popped rib. All that upset our structures a bit, but the lads dug in well and really performed.”
“It was a real team effort to get those points and I’m really happy we did, there aren’t many teams going to go over there and take a result this season.”
Having taken a narrow 18-16 win against Town eight days prior, Thunder still travelled as underdogs in many people’s eyes with Workington expected to capitalise on home advantage and Mantelli insists they were marked differences between the two sides he faced.
Mantelli added: “We knew that they’d be a different prospect at home to the one we played in the cup at KP, they had Phil Joseph back who caused us some dramas around the edge and were just really physical.”
Responding to that challenge, a number of his charges stood out for the Australian on an afternoon where the team pulled together, with forwards and backs drawing praise.
“Sam Luckley I thought was great and gave it a real dig, Liam McAvoy was again superb as was Evan Simons and Derrell [Olpherts] showed some real grit though everyone contributed.”
With the first home game of the season next up against London Skolars, Thunder have the chance to make a good start to the year even better, but Mantelli is refusing to get carried away.
“There’s the chance yeah, but we’ve got to take that chance. Skolars will be smarting from that result against Toronto and with the injuries they picked up, are the literal wounded animal. They’ll be fired up and we’ll have to come up with a plan to control them.”
Sunday’s game against the Skolars kicks off at 3 pm, with tickets available now by clicking here, calling 0871 2266060 or by visiting the Kingston Park box office.
Advanced purchase offers savings of £3 per adult seated ticket and £2 per adult standing ticket when compared to match day prices so book now!