Bill Marshall Reports from Kingston Park 

Newcastle Thunder 12 Bradford Bulls 36 


AFTER a first half where Bradford Bulls had played a huge amount in the home side’s 20 compared to their own 20, the visitors were somehow only leading 14-12 in this Betfred Championship clash. 

Newcastle Thunder scored two converted tries in the final six minutes of the opening stanza, but half-time came at the right time for the Bulls and they listened to the wise words of their head coach John Kear and won the second half 22-0 on Kingston Park’s artificial pitch. 

With Brad England a late cry-off due to a non-Covid related illness, the visitors had to reshuffle, with Adam Rooks coming in to replace him and Joe Burton taking his place on the interchange bench. 

Thunder, 11th in the table compared to the Bulls’ fourth, had Wigan loanees Sam Halsall and Matty Nicholson available again, moving Matty Wright to half-back for Jake Shorrocks, and dropping Evan Simons and Simon Wilde to the bench. 

Showing that they weren’t still ‘on the bus’, the visitors struck early via skipper Steve Crossley, with Jordan Lilley adding the goal, and they maintained pressure despite a sloppy Crossley pass, with Ross Oakes being held up over the line. 

Full back Brandon Pickersgill was a lively presence in attack, particularly down the inside-left channel, and ran well out of defence, but Crossley was then held up short as the Bulls looked to extend their lead. 

Thunder half-back Josh Woods got no change out of man-of-the-match David Foggin-Johnston on the Bulls’ left wing as he dealt extremely well with any bombs that came his way, and it was soon back to normal, with the Bulls probing for another try. 

A measured kick by Lilley forced a goal-line drop-out, but Sam Hallas spoilt a promising situation inside Newcastle’s 20 by spilling the ball. 

The visitors then survived their sternest defensive test to date before Foggin-Johnston almost got on the end of a palm back from Lilley’s kick. 

The dam wouldn’t break, however, so Lilley opted for a kick at goal when he was late tackled, making the score 6-0. 

However, his kick to Thunder’s right-hand corner soon after did bring reward after both sides contested the ball in the air, with Foggin-Johnston being alert to the ball as it bounced towards Newcastle’s posts, dropping on it for a try. 

Lilley’s conversion made it 14-0 but the whole complexion of Kear’s half-time team talk changed within six minutes at the end of the half. 

Firstly, Jack Johnson dived over in spectacular fashion by the touchline flag for Thunder’s first try and he was soon followed over the whitewash by Kieran Gill, with Woods improving both tries to cut the Bulls’ advantage to just two points. 

The second half of the half was punctuated by injuries to players on both sides, the most serious of which looked to be Ben Evans, but, after a neck brace and spinal board were carried onto the field, the Bulls player was able to walk off unaided. 

With Kear reiterating the message of patience in his half-time words, the Bulls were over for an early try even more swiftly than they had managed in the first half, with Rooks the scorer this time for Lilley to convert. 

The visitors then ensured that there was no way back for the home side, with a beautifully-timed Pickersgill pass picking out Foggin-Johnston for his second try. 

Then it was the George Flanagan show, with the experienced interchange burrowing over for two trademark tries, both of which were added to by Lilley. 

Rooks created the first opportunity with a rampaging run, and Thunder then showed indiscipline before Flanagan’s second, with referee Nick Bennett first warning Thunder’s skipper Bob Beswick after a melee and then sin-binning Wright for a high tackle on Lilley.  

Thunder did threaten a breakaway try via Calum Turner, but he rather ran out of puff and ideas down the right wing after picking up a loose ball in his 20. 

Reece Hamlett then threatened to do likewise for the Bulls before a Tom Doyle ‘try’ was ruled out for a double movement. 

Ebon Scurr was then helped off by two ‘water boys’ with a leg injury, and was still limping after the match, while in general there had been too many head injury assessments for comfort. 

THUNDER: Turner; Johnson, Gill, Halsall, Clegg; Woods, Wright; N Wilde, Beswick, T Chapelhow, Ta’ai, Nicholson. Interchanges: McAvoy, Anderson, Simons, S Wilde.  

BULLS: Pickersgill; Hamlett, R Evans, Oakes, Foggin-Johnston; Brown, Lilley; Crossley, Doyle, Walker, Murphy, Rooks, Hallas. Interchange: Burton, Flanagan, B Evans, Scurr. 

Referee: Nick Bennett.