Thunder strike Knights to earn top 5 spot: Sunday 17th September - League 1
Newcastle Thunder sensationally secured the last Kingstone Press League 1 play-off place with a dramatic victory over a much changed York City Knights at Bootham Crescent.
With one eye on the play-offs already, Knights Head Coach James Ford rested some key players in his squad – although Tom Saxton and Harry Carter made an impact on their return from injury. Jason Payne’s Newcastle team was unchanged from the one that beat Doncaster last week.
The opening stages saw plenty of handling errors as a strong downpour at kick off created some difficult conditions to play in, however it was the visitors who struck first after 12 minutes as hooker Evan Simons powered over from close range, Knights hooker Andy Ellis reciprocated with a similar try after 20 minutes.
Thunder regained the lead on the half hour mark – some confusion in the Knights ranks on a free play handed Newcastle an attacking scrum, and on the next play a well timed pass from former Knight Benn Hardcastle put full back Tom Shaw in fir the first of his brace.
Hardcastle was again the architect for Thunder’s third try just moments later – a pinpoint 40/20 put the visitors on the attack once again and on the next play second row Aaron Teroi crashed over to score.
The visitors were high in confidence and were in again on the stroke of half time – Super League bound Derrell Olpherts broke from his own half and finished strongly down the left edge to give Newcastle a 6-20 lead at the break.
The Knights struck first in the second half with another Hooker’s try – this time from the returning Harry Carter, who was playing his first game in two months after a hernia operation.
Then followed a sour moment in the game – Thunder winger Dan Parker was placed on report and shown a yellow card for a sickening late shot on Knights full back Liam Harris, who had made a 50 meter break up field before being knocked unconscious. Harris left the field for a head injury and didn’t return.
From the resulting penalty, winger New Morrison took advantage of the extra space and crossed to score, and with 63 minutes gone it was game on at 18-20.
The resilient Thunder took advantage of the tiring Knights and after a string of penalties piling on the pressure, Tom Shaw crossed for his second try down the left edge, giving Newcastle a crucial 8 point advantage with just 8 minutes remaining.
York ensured there would be a tense finish to the game thanks to the try of the afternoon on 77 minutes – Tim Spears bust a tackle on halfway before offloading to Harry Tyson-Wilson, who moved the ball left to Tom Saxton, who sent Adam Swift flying down the wing to score a fantastic try.
The Knights were dealt another huge blow deep into stoppage time as Adam Swift was sadly stretchered off with a suspected torn ACL.
Despite the Knights desperately pressing for a winner, Newcastle held out to secure a memorable victory and with it, a trip to Barrow in the League 1 play-offs.
For the Knights, the play-offs sees us return to Whitehaven – hopefully with a number of big names – for the second time in two weeks, looking to extend a truly memorable season both on and off the field.