A place in the Betfred Championship would be decided over eighty minutes of frenetic action at the Vestacare Stadium. Oldham and Newcastle went into battle with the home side the favourites by virtue of their higher league place in the regular season.
Oldham were unchanged from the side which defeated Doncaster a fortnight ago. Thunder made just one change from the side which beat Doncaster last weekend to set up todays clash with Carne Doyle-Magna named on the bench in place of Alex Rowe, who broke his arm in that semi-final.
It’s been honours shared in 2019, and there was just one point between them on the league ladder, with close encounters giving little indication of who may emerge victorious ahead of the clash.
It took seven minutes for Nicholas Newman and then full back Lewis Young to find Tualapapa to leap over in the corner and ground by the flag, just managing to remain in play. Rhys Clarke missed the touchline conversion.
On twelve Oldham hit the front when a Dave Hewitt kick came back of the post for Daniel Langtree to collect and ground under the sticks. Paul Crook added the goal from in front of the uprights for 6-4.
As the heavens opened both sides probed and prodded but neither could get in for another score as defences held firm. It had been the tightest of first halves with the home side taking a two point lead into the sheds.
Seven minutes into the second half Joel Edwards took a Quentin Laulu-Togagae pass to go through the Oldham line and grab the second Thunder try of the afternoon. Clarke balloned his kick wide of the uprights, Newcastle now 8-6 ahead.
Oldham struck back on fifty-two when a cross field kick from Hewitt came off a Thunder head and into the arms of Zach McComb to score in the corner. Crook added the conversion brilliantly from the touchline for a 12-8 lead.
On fifty-six Tualapapa edged his side back into the lead after he was on hand to take a Tyler Craig tap back and score under the sticks. When Clark kicked his first of the afternoon the Thunder again had the lead at 14-12.
In a see-sawing game it was the home side who scored next when, on the last, Beckett took a pass twenty from the line and stepped past his marker to go in for the score. Crook made it three from three for an 18-14 lead.
Thunder looked certain to score on sixty-seven with an overlap in broken play but a superb last-ditch interception saved the Roughyeds.
As the clock ran down it looked like it would be Oldham who were more likely to score and extend their lead but neither side could get over the whitewash and it was Oldham who secured the priceless victory and promotion to the Championship.
It was a great advert for the game and despite their being little to choose between the two sides, Oldham probably deserved their victory and as the side who finished the regular season in second place, few can doubt their claims on promotion. They will be mixing it in the second fight next season while Thunder will need to regroup and challenge again next season.
Oldham: Hawkyard, Kay, McComb (T), Leeming, Johnson, Crook (3G), Hewitt, Joy, Owen, Law, Bridge, Langtree (T), Bent. Subs: Spencer, Wilkinson, Whittel, Beckett (T).
Thunder: Young,Taulapapa (2T), Craig, Gill, Clegg, Laulu-Togagae, Newman, McAvoy, Carlile, Luckley, Clarke (G), Edwards (T), Aldous H.. Subs: Simons, Aldous J, Doyle-Manga, Fitzsimmonds.
Referee: Gareth Hewer.