Newcastle Thunder’s interest in the League 1 cup came to an end at the quarter-finals stage for a second year in succession with a 16-24 loss to North Wales Crusaders at Kingston Park Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
A re-match of 2016’s Kingstone Press League 1 Shield final, Thunder struggled to impose themselves on the game, despite some superb defensive sets restricting the progress of their visitors and ultimately paid the price for some poor errors.
The day started in fine style too as Thunder helped themselves to an early 6-0 lead thanks to Derrell Olpherts.
Breaking through some weak tackling from the visitors, the centre charged 60 meters upfield and while he had support from winger Peter Fox, it wasn’t needed as Olpherts held off the attempted tackles to score.
A sweetly struck kick allowed Benn Hardcastle to add the conversion and with strong defence keeping the Crusaders their side of halfway, Thunder were looking impressive.
They were, however, struggling to find a telling, precise pass at crucial junctures and so were unable to make further inroads on the scoreboard despite commanding the territorial battle.
One such example provided the Crusader’s with their first try of the day as a floated miss pass was picked off by Corey Lee who ran a full 90 meters to get his side within two points.
Thunder fullback Lewis Young put in a spirited chase and forced the player to stay out wide to give a tricky conversion, but it was small comfort from a scenario where Thunder had looked certain to extend their lead.
Olpherts doubled his tally for the day with three first half minutes remaining following a superb break from Aaron Teroi and though it allowed the hosts to take a six-point lead into the break, the home side could have found themselves in a much stronger position.
It was a scoreline that clearly provided a boost to the visitors who again punished Thunder with a breakaway try just three minutes into the second half as a host of defenders either missed tackles or bought dummies to allow the Crusaders in for a ponderous run to the line.
Equalising through Thomas Johnson, the visitors assumed the lead just ahead of the hour with quick hands putting in Jack Houghton and allowing them to grow in the ascendency.
Going behind stung the home side into a response and am impressive attacking set saw the scores squared up at 16 all thanks to a short-range effort from Danny Nicklas and conversion from Hardcastle but it was short-lived.
Conceding a penalty with 12 minutes to go, the Crusaders opted for a kick at goal which yielded two points for Johnson, before the fullback put the tie beyond Thunder’s reach with another breakaway try with eight minutes remaining.
And while the hosts went in search of a grandstand finish, the deficiencies in their attack efforts continued to manifest themselves, ensuring they travel to Wrexham for next weekend’s league match in search of redemption.
Newcastle Thunder squad
Lewis Young, Ali Blair, Joe Brown, Derrell Olpherts, Peter Fox, Danny Nicklas, Benn Hardcastle, Liam McAvoy, Evan Simons, Vincent Rennie, Harry Aldous, Rhys Clarke, Jack Aldous, Aaron Teroi, Matty Barron, Corbyn Kilday, Josh Stoker.
Try Scorers – Olpherts (6, 37) Nicklas (56)
Goal Scorers – Hardcastle (6, 56)
North Wales Crusaders squad
Thomas Johnson, Corey Lee, Callum Mulkeen, Earl Hurst, Dale Bloomfield, Jack Hansen, Ryan Smith, Kenneth Baker, Lee Hudson, John Cookson, Luke Warburton, Jack Houghton, Ryan Millington, Aaron Moore, Alex Davidson, Jack Francis, James Dandy.
Try Scorers – Lee (21) Houghton (43, 56) Johnson (72)
Goal Scorers – Johnson (43, 56, 66, 72)