Newcastle secure unlikely place in League 1 play-offs

Newcastle Thunder booked their place in the League 1 play-offs following a dramatic final round of action.

Jason Payne’s side bagged the fourth and final place in the play-offs with a dramatic 26-24 victory over fellow promotion hopefuls York City Knights.

It means that Newcastle will travel to Barrow Raiders this Sunday for the right to play in the final, with York heading to Cumbria to face Whitehaven.

Thunder’s fate was out of their own hands at the start of the weekend, with Doncaster occupying fifth place and Keighley above them on points difference.

Only defeats for both the Dons and the Cougars would give them any hope of reaching play-offs, and even then they would require a victory against James Ford’s in-form side at Bootham Crescent.

However, Doncaster fell to defeat in Toronto on Saturday, while Keighley’s 32-18 defeat to Barrow opened the door for Newcastle to secure their place in the play-offs.

They did just that as they secured a two-point victory over the City Knights thanks to two tries from fullback Tom Shaw.

York’s Adam Swift scored with four minutes remaining to close the gap to two points, only for the Knights to hang on for the victory.

“I couldn’t even watch the game I was that nervous,” said head coach Jason Payne.

“I was all over the place. It’s so unusual that a whole season comes down to three or four minutes and that what it came down to at the end of the game.

“It was really nerve-wracking as we knew by the end of our game it was in our hands as Keighley had lost. But at the same time I had full confidence in the boys to get the job done. We’re really delighted to have made it.”

With promotion now in their sights, Payne admitted his side could go to Barrow with nothing to lose, with his side the firm underdogs ahead of the contest.

“I’m sure we’ll go into the game as the big underdogs. We’re going to go up there, have some fun and see where it takes us.”