|Filtrona Park - looking verdant earlier today|
With a solitary win to their name in 2013, coach Kevin Neighbour must be wondering just what Gateshead have to do to grab another - especially as his side's return to this lush crucible of endeavour was more Billy Smart than Billy Boston.
An astonishing game at Filtrona last week saw London Skolars snatch a narrow win, edging out the home side in a 107-point thriller by a quite staggering 55-52. And if that doesn't boggle your mind enough, Gateshead were 20 points up late in the first half.
Thunder got on an early roll with 5 tries in 15 minutes to give them a 34-18 half-time lead. But us Hornets know only too well about second-half turnrounds and shipping four unanswered tries in the third quarter took the momentum - and ultimately the game - Skolars' way.
Neighbour was concise in his assessment: "Our Defence was awful… you don't deserve to beat anybody if you give them 55 points". Unless of course, you score 56.
Like all good coaches, Neighbour knows where the buck stops: "I won't take any responsibility for this," he said. " The lads didn't do what I asked… they are not kids any more and they need to stand up as men." Teflon-coated: nice work.
What is clear is that Gateshead's partnership with Hull KR does seem to have improved their ability to compete (the previous week they went down by just five points at Oxford). Indeed, over the seven games so far, their -83 averages at an 11.8 point losing margin: right in the Bonus Point Zone: so it's hardly surprising that they have more bonus points (four) than anyone else in the division
Hornets have yet to concede a point at Filtrona park, winning last years fixture by 38 to nil, Paul Crook weighing in with a try and five goals, but buoyed by last weekend's frankly barking points-fest - Gateshead are averaging a 'for' of around 23 points a game, so they clearly know where the goal-line is. So no room for complacency.
Route Planner has it at 134 miles, in around two and a quarter hours - so a mere hop compared to last week. So let's get up there in numbers, make some noise and cheer the lads on.
Quickest route is:
M62 to junction 29, take the M1 N - it merges with A1(M)
Continue on A1(M) following signs for Darlington/Newcastle
Just after Washington Services, keep right to continue on A194(M), follow signs for South Shields
At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit onto Leam Lane/A194
Follow A194 through 3 roundabouts
Turn left onto Shaftesbury Ave (there's a Tesco, McDonalds and a car wash on your left)
The Mariners Club/Filtrona Park is half a mile on the right.
From the RFL:
Gateshead Thunder v Rochdale Hornets
Craig Borthwick is doubtful for Gateshead Thunder, while Luke Hardcastle is facing up to three weeks on the sidelines with a knee problem.
Thunder coach Kevin Neighbour is aiming for big improvements after last week’s 55-52 reverse against London Skolars.
Neighbour said: “We can’t afford to score 52 points and get beat – it’s suicide. Defence is the key this week.
“We had a pretty tough session on Tuesday and we were very honest.”
He added: “Rochdale are a good, experienced side and we’ll have to be tough if we want to get anything out of Sunday’s game.”
Wayne English, Mike Ratu and Dayne Donoghue all missed Rochdale Hornets’ Tuesday training session, but coach Ian Talbot is hopeful all three will be fit.
Danny Davies is also back in contention, but Alex McClurg and Alex Trumper are definitely out.
Talbot said: “We’re only playing for 40, 50 or 60 minutes at the moment. We need to get a level of consistency in our performances across the full 80 minutes.”