In a thrilling encounter at Kingston Park, the Newcastle Thunder secured a hard-fought victory over the Keighley Cougars, triumphing with a final score of 18-16. The match was finely poised throughout, with both teams displaying tremendous determination and skill.
The first half showcased a back-and-forth battle, with the Cougars initially taking the lead. The Thunder’s Curtis Davies drew first blood, capitalising on some excellent play by captain Alex Foster, who set up the hooker to touch down. However, Nikau Williams failed to convert, leaving the score at 4-0 in favour of the Thunder.
The Cougars quickly responded, displaying their own attacking prowess. Robbie Storey, the centre, seized a kick-through opportunity and expertly dove over the try line to the right of the posts. Kieran Rush added the extra points, propelling Keighley into a 6-4 lead.
A moment of disbelief followed soon after when the Thunder’s Alex Donaghy hit the upright from the kick-off, allowing Thunder to regain possession. Seizing the opportunity, prop forward Ted Chapelhow powered his way over the line after receiving a short ball from a ruck. Williams successfully converted, giving Thunder a 10-6 advantage.
Despite Thunder’s momentum, Keighley refused to be outdone. Kieran Rush’s alertness proved pivotal as he pounced on a loose ball from a kick-through, emphatically scoring his first professional try just before the ball went dead. Rush’s conversion attempt fell short, leaving the game evenly poised at 10 points apiece after 28 minutes of play.
The remainder of the first half saw limited action, but just before the break, Keighley managed to regain their lead with a penalty goal converted by Dane Chisholm following a late hit. The Cougars headed into halftime with a slender 12-10 advantage.
The second half kicked off in a manner similar to the first, with Thunder surging ahead. After 47 minutes of play, winger Alex Clegg capitalised on the team’s ability to exploit space and skillfully dived over the line for his seventh try of the season. Williams’ touchline conversion attempt fell short, but the Thunder now held a 14-12 lead.
Maintaining their attacking intensity, Thunder extended their advantage in the 58th minute through back rower Brad Gallagher. Excellent build-up play from Hull FC loanee Nick Staveley set the stage, with Gallagher collecting a well-placed kick from Williams to cross the line unopposed. Uncharacteristically, Williams failed to convert the easy kick, but Thunder now enjoyed an 18-12 lead with just over 20 minutes remaining.
Keighley, sensing the urgency, intensified their offensive efforts and managed to breach the Thunder’s defence once more. Center Charlie Graham displayed his finishing skills, crossing in the corner after the ball was skillfully worked wide. Dane Chisholm took over the kicking duties but failed to convert from a challenging angle, increasing the tension at Kingston Park as both sides battled for victory.
As the clock wound down, Keighley appeared to have snatched a dramatic victory when winger Mo Agoro dived over in the right corner. However, the elation was short-lived as Agoro was judged to have knocked on when placing the ball. Thunder capitalised on the restart, and the full-time whistle soon blew, confirming their narrow 18-16 triumph.
The clash between Newcastle Thunder and Keighley Cougars will be remembered as a rugby league classic, with both teams showcasing their unwavering determination and providing the spectators with an enthralling contest.