Match Preview: Super 8s Toronto Wolfpack vs Newcastle Thunder

Match Preview by Doug Thomson, League Express
Match Date: Saturday 19th August
Time: 4:30PM EDT (9:30PM BST)
Venue: Lamport Stadium, Toronto

HOME RULE IS CRUCIAL

The heat is on as the Wolfpack return to home territory after playing the first three of seven Super 8s games in the road.

Paul Rowley’s men, who now have four key matches in Toronto, remain in pole position for top spot and automatic promotion to the Championship.

But the gap has been closed to two points by Barrow Raiders after they edged a 30-28 win at Newcastle last Sunday while the Wolfpack were held 26-26 by Keighley Cougars.

Barrow, who host York City Knights this Sunday, visit the Lamport Stadium for a key contest on Saturday, September 9th.

Things could have been even tighter, because a Whitehaven win at Doncaster would have left Carl Forster’s side just a point behind Toronto.

However the Dons were 30-22 victors, so Whitehaven, who head to Toronto on Saturday, September 2nd, remain third, three points in arrears.

The Wolfpack, who now have a win (at Workington Town), a draw and a defeat (at York) in the Super 8s, know any further slip-ups must be avoided.

NEWCASTLE

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

The urban area of Newcastle has a population of around 880,000, making it the seventh largest in England and eighth largest in the United Kingdom.

The city, which is 280 miles north of London, 100 South of Edinburgh and eight from the North Sea, lies on the North bank of the River Tyne, with Gateshead on the South side.

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

Newcastle was part of Northumberland until 1400, when it became a county in itself, a status it retained until becoming part of Tyne and Wear in 1974.

The city developed around the Roman settlement Pons Aelius and was named after the castle built in 1080 by Robert Curthose, William the Conqueror’s eldest son.

Newcastle grew as an important centre for the wool trade in the 14th century, and later became a major coal mining area.

By the 16th century, the city was one of the world’s largest shipbuilding centres.

Newcastle United Football Club play in the Premier League at the famous St James’ Park, located in the centre of the city and the venue for Rugby League’s Magic Weekend.

Meanwhile Newcastle Falcons play in Rugby Union’s Premiership and are based at Kingston Park, which is also home to Newcastle Thunder.

NEWCASTLE THUNDER

The club was founded in 1999 as Gateshead Thunder to play as an expansion side in Super League.

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

However Rugby League 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.

In 2015, Rugby Union’s Newcastle Falcons bought the club and moved it from the Gateshead International Stadium to Kingston Park, which like the Lamport Stadium, has an artificial pitch.

Thunder are coach by former captain Jason Payne, who was assistant to Mick Mantelli before the Australian was sacked in May after a run of five straight defeats.

Payne led his charges to six straight wins and into the Super 8s before a narrow 26-25 defeat at Hunslet on the final day of the regular League 1 season.

KEY BATTLES

Toronto will be expected to win, but it won’t be easy, even if Newcastle have yet to pick up a point in the Super 8s.

Thunder had a real go at Barrow last Sunday, and after being 30-6 down on 48 minutes, fought back and were within two points of drawing level by the final whistle.

When the Wolfpack went to Newcastle in May, they were made to fight for a 40-22 victory in which Ryan Brierley claimed two tries for Toronto.

Newcastle have a talented and versatile back in Darrell Olpherts, who has been signed by   Super League side Salford Red Devils for next season.

Goal kicker Benn Hardcastle has bagged 195 points in total (he scored two tries against Barrow last Sunday) while fullback or halfback Lewis Young has 15 tries to his credit.

Like halfback Aaron Teroi, bulldozing prop Vincent Rennie has played at international level for the Cook Islands while second row Dan Turland caught the eye for Scotland at the recent Student World Cup.