Kingstone Press League 1 Preview: Newcastle Thunder v Hemel Stags

Stanley Gene, the Newcastle Thunder coach, was very disappointed with his side’s 32-28 defeat at home to Rochdale Hornets.

“It was the same as the week before,” he said. “We came so close but haven’t got the points. When you compete against teams like that you’re in an arm wrestle and you have to take your chances.

“We’ve got to blame ourselves, we’re giving away too many penalties and most of them were around initial contact. We miss that first contact and then struggle to control the ruck.

“But as I’ve said to the boys, playing teams like Barrow and Rochdale, they’ve been in the top division for a while, so they’re used to it.

“I think the next few weeks will tell us where we are, we’ve got Hemel this week then Keighley and York away. It’s a tough challenge for us.”

Hemel Stags coach Troy Perkins said: “I don’t think we performed as well as we would have hoped last week. We were put under a lot of pressure in the first half, however in the second half we conceded a couple of soft tries that took the game beyond reach.

“At 12-6 down we had a couple of chances to draw level and make the last 15 minutes pretty interesting but we just made a couple of errors down on their line and didn’t put them under enough pressure.

“Skolars probably put out the best team they have all season and are a decent side when they’re on their game and were a bit too good for us.

Looking ahead to this week he said: “Newcastle are a really good team. We played them down at our place earlier in the season and they beat us convincingly. They’ve got some smart players in the halves and threats out wide as well as a big pack.

“We’re going to have to handle that ruck area, which is something we haven’t been doing too well, so we’ve got to really step up to the mark. We’ve lost a lot of size and go forward through injury from the start of the season so we’re pretty lightweight up front but we’ve just got to front up, be tough in that middle and try and match these bigger packs.”

The Stags have signed England student prop Matt Ross in addition to Jamie Crowther on loan from University of Gloucestershire All Golds.

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