Gateshead 0 - Hornets 32
This was a scrappy, bitty game that never really gained any rhythm or fluidity. An almost over-keen Hornets often forced passes or took the wrong option, while a frankly impotent Gateshead could still be playing now and be no closer to scoring.
Despite a completion rate struggling to reach 50%, Hornets were clearly on-top throughout and got the first strike in early doors when Paul Crook snuck through flimsy tacklng on half-way to out-pace and out-muscle the covering defence to score; his conversion attempt fading the wrong-side of the upright.
With Hornets playing the only discernible football on offer, there was an air of inevitability about Gary Middlehurst's 12th minute try off a crafty Steve Roper pass. Again, Crook was uncharateristically awry with the boot. 8-nil.
And so it stayed until the break, the game locked in a fumbling, stumblling stasis. Hornets doing everything but score, Thunder struggling to complete sets. At least the sun was out.
Hornets started the second half with, visibly, more purpose. With Roper and Hough bringing the forwards onto balls at pace and Wayne English chiming into the line at every opportunity, Hornets adopted a much more direct approach. With both Gary Middlehurst and Phil Braddish fumbling try-scoring opportunities, the opening score of the second half took ten minutes to arrive - Jonny Leather showing good footwork to jink in and score. Crooky broke his duck and the game was afoot.
Following some neat approach work, Wayne English's mesmerising run sucked in defenders and his neat drop-off pass found Chris Hough in support to plunge through defenders to score on the hour.
Gateshead's sole contribution of interest came shortly after when willing lummox Waller responded to being held up short by headbutting Dayne Donohue. His red-card was followed by yellows for Hornets' Dave Newton and Thunder's Walsh. Hornets responded by marching upfield where Gary Middlehurst strolled in for his second off a tidy inside pass. 26-nil and a somewhat more accurate representation of Hornets' dominance.
There was still time for Paul Crook to bookend a 16-point contribution with a stepping, dummying try by the posts. And at 32-nil, it'd be churlish to complain too vociferously. If Hornets had beaten Gateshead by 52-20, it'd look like a proper thrashing - but the same wining margin with a nil at one end offers greater satiafaction.
And I'd rather have an ugly 32 point win than a pretty defeat any day of the week.