Gateshead Thunder 4 - Hornets 46
With the sun beating down on a lush Filtrona Park, it was an afternoon for the factor 50. But Hornets fell teasingly short of their own half century in a clinical performance that's really put a light under Kingstone Press Championship 1.
Keen to avoid the points landslide of last week, Gateshead started with real purpose: determined to play the game under Hornets posts. While they pressured and probed, they couldn't find the pass or kick to unlock a stern defence.
Having soaked up the early pressure, Hornets marched slickly downfield where Steve Roper found Wayne English arriving on a weaving run that took him clear to open the scoring after quarter of an hour.
It was now Hornets' turn to set up camp in the Gateshead 10m zone and when John Cookson was the recipient of Chris Hough's pass on a 'double prop' rushing move he proved too strong, crashing in by the posts. Crook with two from two. 12-nil after 18 minutes.
|Hornets line-up an attack at sunny Filtrona Park|
Gateshead responded well, regaining possession in the Hornets half off a lofted kick, but when Latus coughed possession Hornets reacted fastest: Steve Roper's break to halfway, a quick play the ball and Wayne English making the extra man to send Adam Swift in out wide. Crook lethal with boot for 18-nil
With Gateshead struggling to regain their shape after lynchpin halfback Hardcastle was carried from the field after a second crunching injury in as many miniutes, Hornets ended the half applying more pressure to a beleaguered home defence.
With the hooter immimnent, Dom Speakman punished Thunder's napping markers to land a sucker-punch try from acting half. The extras a formality from Crook and Hornets ahead at the break by a comfortable 24-nil.
It took less then five minutes of the second-half for Hornets to carry on where they'd left off. Dom Speakman's break, Wayne English in support and a snake-hipped, curving run took him clear for his second try of the afternoon. Crooky good for the two. 30-nil.
The noisy travelling support didn't have to wait long for the next score. Hornets driving Thunder back upfield, the ball knocked out in the tackle, Gaz Langley with the presence of mind to chip the loose ball into space, snaffle a perfect bounce and scoot away to score. Fantastic improvisation. Crooky with the two. 36-nil.
Just before the hour, Mike Ratu got his reward for an afternoon spent terrorising the Gateshead defence. Setting off on another bulldozing run, he skittled defenders to score from 30 metres. Crooky just wide with the kick, the Hornets fans jokingly calling for Gaz Langley to be reinstated as kicker.
Crooky was more certain with his next effort in the 67th minute - converting an opportunist Dayne Donoghue try after a grubber ricocheted off a post to cause chaos in the Thunder in-goal.
At 46-nil with 10 minutes remaining, the (factor) fifty looked inevitable. But wait…
With Gateshead seemingly going nowhere, Heil skipped through a couple of tackles and showed an impressive turn of pace to dash in from 60 metres for Thunder's only points.
Hornets response was immediate. A series of fast play the balls took them upfield where a flat Steve Roper pass appeared to have sent Wayne English somersaulting in for his hat-trick, only for referee Mr Brooke to rule it forward.
But it'd be churlish to complain too much. Hornets were ruthless, well-organised, convincing winners. And with Big Spending North Wales Crusaders™ going down by 18-10 at Hemel, the heat is really on in the 2013 promotion chase.
Hornets Victory Song at Gateshead
Yes - we ARE ready ready!