Match Preview: Newcastle Thunder v Toronto Wolfpack

Match Preview by Chris Jones of League Express

Match Date: Friday 12 May 2017

Kick-off Time: 19:30 BST, 14:30EDT

Venue: Kingston Park, Newcastle

Following their home debut last Sunday, when they defeated Oxford 62-12 in front of 6,281 spectators at Lamport Stadium, the Wolfpack have returned to England this week, and on Friday night they head to Newcastle, one of the great English cities.

The Wolfpack remain unbeaten in League 1 and they currently sit at the top of the table with six wins out of six, alongside Barrow Raiders, who have a similar record and who are the Wolfpack’s next visitors at Lamport Stadium.

Newcastle Thunder currently sit in tenth place in League 1, with three victories and three defeats in their six matches so far.


Newcastle upon Tyne is the largest city in North East England, and it is the commercial, administrative, cultural and sporting centre of its region.

The urban area of Newcastle had a population of 879,996 at the time of the last census in 2011, making it the seventh largest urban area in England.

The city lies on the north bank of the River Tyne, with its sister city Gateshead lying immediately to the south of the river.

The spoken dialect of Newcastle is known as Geordie, and contains a large amount of vocabulary and distinctive words and pronunciations that are not found in other parts of the United Kingdom.

The city’s most famous sporting club is the Newcastle United Football Club, which plays at the iconic St James’ Park, located right in the centre of the city. Newcastle United were relegated from the Premiership in 2016, but this season they have earned promotion back out of the Championship at the first attempt.

St James’ Park will be the venue for Super League’s Magic Weekend on Saturday and Sunday 20/21 May, when all the Super League clubs will play a full round of fixtures in the city.

Newcastle Thunder in its inaugural identity was formed in 1999, originally as Gateshead Thunder, to play as an expansion club in the Super League competition.

In their first season they finished in a creditable sixth place in the 14-team competition, but they struggled financially and in the following season they moved to Hull in a merger with the then Hull Sharks to form Hull FC.

But enthusiasts in Gateshead resurrected a new club with the same name to play in the lower levels of the English competition, which they joined in 2001.

They played initially at the Gateshead International Stadium, but In 2015 Premiership rugby union club Newcastle Falcons bought the club and moved it to Newcastle to share their ground, Kingston Park, with a view to increasing attendances compared to being at Gateshead.

Like the Wolfpack, Thunder have ambitions of gaining promotion and one day playing in Super League, although they have yet to challenge seriously for promotion from League 1.

The pitch at Kingston Park is an artificial one, meaning that spectators and TV viewers should be able to see another fast-moving encounter similar to the Wolfpack’s victory against Oxford at Lamport Stadium last Sunday.

Team News

Newcastle have announced a squad that includes new loan signing George Milton and Jared Simpson, a Super League player from Huddersfield Giants

Their former England winger Peter Fox misses out this week after picking up a knock away to Whitehaven last weekend.

Meanwhile, the Wolfpack have announced a strong squad, with FuiFui Moimoi, Quentin Laulu Togagae and Ryan Bailey all returning to their 19-man squad. Bailey spent a month on loan with Thunder earlier in his career.

Newcastle’s 19-man squad: Matty Barron, Ali Blair, Joe Brown, Zach Clark, Rhys Clarke, Benn Hardcastle, Sam Luckley, Liam McAvoy, George Milton (L), Danny Nicklas, Derrell Olpherts, Dan Parker, Vincent Rennie, Tom Shaw, Evan Simons, Jared Simpson (DR), Josh Stoker, Brett Waller, Lewis Young.

Wolfpack 19-man squad: Ryan Bailey, Bob Beswick, Ryan Brierley, Steve Crossley, Andrew Dixon, Jacob Emmitt, Craig Hall, Rhys Jacks, Liam Key, Fuifui Moimoi, Sean Penkywicz, Shaun Pick, Jonathan Pownall, Adam Sidlow, Quentin Laulu Togagae, Blake Wallace, Gary Wheeler, Richard Whiting, Greg Worthington

Key Battles

This is another game Toronto will be expected to win to retain their unbeaten record in the competition.

Newcastle’s strength comes primarily in their backline, with fullback Darrell Olpherts in fine form in their 34-20 defeat to Whitehaven last week, while their leading scorer is centre Benn Hardcastle, who has scored 19 goals and one try to stand sixth in the competition’s goalkicking leading scorers and seventh in the points scoring list.

The Wolfpack should have too much firepower in their forward pack, however, particularly if Bailey and Fui Fui Moi Moi are selected.

Toronto should be capable of winning this game by at least 25 points.

You can watch it live on gametv and CBC online in Canada and Premier sports in the U.K. and Ireland.