NEWCASTLE Thunder come to the Vestacare Stadium on Sunday (3pm) defending an unbeaten away record after recording wins at London Skolars, Coventry Bears and North Wales Crusaders.
They put 60 points past Skolars on the opening day of the season and rattled up 32 at Coventry the next time they left the North-East.
On the face of it, though, their best performance on the road was their 30-10 win at North Wales Crusaders.
Home form hasn’t quite matched up although they held Doncaster to a couple of points before losing to York and Keighley and then picking up their first home win of the season against Hunslet last Sunday.
Among their scorers in a 28-10 win on the artificial pitch at Kingston Park was winger Mo Agoro, who scored nine tries in 22 appearances for Roughyeds in 2013 and then averaged a try a game in 2014, when he registered 18 in as many appearances.
He was on the wing in the 2013 Grand Final against Rochdale, but didn’t figure in the 2014 final against Hunslet when the wing spots were occupied by Adam Clay and Dale Bloomfield.
He didn’t play in the three previous games either and he went on to sign for Hunslet, for whom he scored three tries in 13 games in the Championship season of 2015 when Roughyeds won promotion from League 1 and the Hawks, as they were then known, were relegated after only one season in tier two.
Agoro is now one of several dangerous attackers in a Thunder side that lies in fifth place on the same number of points as seventh-placed Oldham but with a better for-and-against difference.
Others to watch out for when they get a sniff of a break, or even a try, are full-back Tee Ritson, centre Joe Brown and stand-off Lewis Young, whose eye for an opening was a key element of Thunder’s win against Hunslet.
Ritson, of Thai descent, was previously at Workington, where he grew up and played for the Cumbrian Academy side before turning pro with Town.
Castleford-born Young played high-standard amateur rugby league with Redhill. Castleford Panthers and Featherstone Lions before moving to the North-East to study.
Big on development, Thunder have under-16 and under-19 teams, several of their senior squad members having come up through the system which encourages local Geordie lads to get involved with rugby league.
The senior squad is a mix of local talent, players from more traditional areas who have settled in the North-East and more experienced men who have been with other clubs.
Prop Liam McAvoy, for instance, toured Austalia with England Academy in 2012 when he was a junior at Bradford and Leeds. He has since played extensively for Workington.
Vice-captain Rhys Clarke, a big forward, has seen service with York City Knights and Whitehaven, while centre Tyler Craig and prop Jack Aldous have also played for the City Knights.
Thunder face a crucial few weeks in which they come to Oldham on Sunday and then face Bradford Bulls and Workington.
Coach Jason Payne said:
“Before beating Hunslet we played three sides in the top eight (Doncaster, York and Keighley) and lost them all. We felt we had under-performed and we now face a crucial few weeks when it’s as tough as it gets.”