DEWSBURY helped to serve up a thrilling cup tie last weekend, but it was their defensive deficiencies that allowed Newcastle to grab the win (38-30) and end their hopes of a strong Challenge Cup run.
Just four days after impressing to win away at Whitehaven, the Rams headed to the North East with the BBC cameras watching and a place in the sixth round at stake.
It was end-to-end stuff throughout and the result was in the balance right to the final hooter, with the scores tied at 30 points apiece until Alex Clegg’s try won the match for Thunder with five minutes to go.
Dewsbury coach Lee Greenwood said: “There were some good bits but I think some individuals will be disappointed in how they performed, and they don’t need telling about that.
“We have won four games on the spin and so we win together and now we lose together, and although it sounds strange losing, it might do us some good.
“It might just remind players that if we aren’t playing above ourselves this is the outcome that can happen. It might make some players realise they aren’t as good as they thought they were.
“We had people filling in, in different positions, it took us a while to adjust to those positions and maybe we never really properly adjusted.
“We don’t want those sorts of games where it’s you score then we score. Newcastle are probably used to that sort of game on this pitch. However we don’t like those sorts of matches, we like to be in control and certainly better in defence.
“On Sunday we just weren’t quite good enough, but we have won four in a row. Let’s dust it off and go again whenever that may be.
“It is our first setback and it’s the first loss we have had since the opening day. It’s the first really disappointing performance of the season. Teams go through this and you have to deal with it, it’s now how you react to it. It’s a test for your group now and how they can bounce back.”
A superb first half produced seven tries between the teams as both sides found ways to exploit their opponents’ defence; Thunder down the edges and the Rams directly through the middle.
After a bright start from the visitors, Newcastle raced into a double-digit lead as they scored back-to-back tries after forcing an early goal-line dropout.
Kieran Gill struck first as the centre backed himself after opening a gap in the defence with a feint to his left, showing good strength to shrug off three attempted tackles and get his side off the mark.
Quentin Laulu-Togaga’e then finished off a superb break by Lewis Young after the full-back straightened his line to streak down the wing, with a well-placed pass back inside finding the Samoan half-back who finished under the posts.
The Rams hit back on 14 minutes through former Thunderman Michael Knowles, with the second-row latching on to a well-placed pass from Frazer Morris after a neat tip-on from Liam Finn, but Newcastle restored their advantage four minutes later.
Brenden Santi sparked the move with a strong charge in the middle of the park before Tyler Craig shipped the ball out wide, where Ashley Gibson finished the chance by backing himself and speeding in from 30 metres out.
Finn proved to be a real pain for his former club as he made tries for Paul Sykes and Connor Scott with the Rams targeting Thunder’s Rhys Clarke as a weak link.
However, a short-range effort from Bob Beswick in the middle allowed the hosts to maintain their lead.
After a slow start to the second half with both sides locked into an arm wrestle, it was almost the hour mark before the hosts struck with another quick-fire double.
Adam Lawton was the first to score as he was fed from Clegg on the wing, before the giant second-row turned provider moments later as a neat offload found Gill for his second and to establish 12-point cushion.
The Rams though showed the determination and credentials that have taken them to the top half of the Championship table and set up the grandstand finish with Martyn Reilly and Will Oakes converted tries, tying the match at 30-all.
Newcastle were able to summon up enough resolve to make sure they progressed into the next round of the cup as they got their noses back in front with just two minutes to go.
A cut-out pass from Reece Dean was pinpoint in its accuracy, finding Clegg out on the wing who dived in before the half-back sunk a sublime touchline conversion.
Playing out the remaining seconds, the Rams conceded a penalty directly in front of the posts which allowed Dean to make absolutely sure of the result.