Rugby League: Bird flying for Thunder

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DEON BIRD led the way as Gateshead enjoyed the ideal warm-up for life in Super League. The former Paris player is the Thunder's prospective third-choice full-back but he took his chance in their second pre-season outing at the south Leeds stadium with three tries as the new boys showed an abundance of class.

Gateshead scored at a point a minute throughout the first half, their seven tries starting to flow after only 90 seconds when Craig Simon released Matt Daylight. The pick of the tries that followed was the one scored by Ian Herron, who also landed six of his goal attempts, after Luke Felsch's brilliant pass to the effervescent Willie Peters.

Bird crossed twice, but it was the crisp handling of Peters, his half- back partner Will Robinson and the captain Kerrod Walters that caught the eye, along with good debuts from the new arrivals, Brett Grogan and Danny Lee.

Watched by a delegation from Leeds, their opponents in the inaugural Super League fixture in 10 days' time, Gateshead at least encountered more resistance from Hunslet after the break. It took them 10 minutes to add to their score: Grogan, who has the ability to be one of the personalities of the season, selling a huge dummy to go over. Bird took over to convert that try and then completed his own hat-trick.

Surprisingly, that was the end of Gateshead's scoring, but they had shown enough in the first-half to hint at their potential. "They looked sharp and scored some spectacular tries," said the Leeds coach, Graham Murray, although he will make sure that their baptism into the real world of Super League bears little resemblance to this.

"I was pleased with the way we played and more so with the fact that they didn't score," said the Thunder coach, Shaun McRae. "It was very cold and slippery out there and it could be very similar conditions when we play them at Gateshead."

The other good news for McRae was that his squad, which on the evidence of its first two run-outs is a distinctly talented one, came through without any serious injuries. All that remains now is to fine tune it for the momnt of truth on 7 March.

Hunslet: Fatnowna, Baker, Higgins, D'Arcy, Campbell, Mycoe, Tawhai, Richards, M Green, Nadiole, Moore, Thackray, North. Substitutes used: St Hilaire, Ross, Kennedy, Parnell.

Gateshead: Bird, Herron, Grogan, Simon, Daylight, Robinson, Peters, Hick, Walters, B Green, Felsch, Wilson, Grimaldi. Substitutes used: Maiden, Maher, Lee, Carney.

Referee: S Cummings (Widnes).