Rugby League: Gateshead's sterling start

Gateshead 14 Leeds 24
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The Independent Online
GATESHEAD COULD not quite celebrate the opening of Super League's new frontier with a win over arguably the strongest side in the competition, but they went close enough to make it a sterling debut.

Leeds looked likely on occasion to run away with the match, but the Thunder showed great resilience in fighting back, only to be finally subdued by Francis Cummings' try in the last five minutes.

As if fate has not done enough to their plans in the shape of a clash with Newcastle United, the foul weather also conspired against Gateshead's efforts to get the new venture off to a flying start.

That had the predictable effect on the pitch, which was far too wet for their preferred style of rugby, and on the attendance, which was poor reward for all the work that has been put into this north-east outpost.

The sodden conditions even stopped the pre-match fireworks catching alight, although the game itself was anything but a damp squib.

Gateshead took the game to their visitors and Craig Wilson came close to registering their first Super League points when his drop-goal attempt was charged down. He was then indirectly responsible for the first points conceded by the Thunder when he stole the ball from Barrie McDermott to give Iestyn Harris a kickable penalty.

The first try to get past them was unlucky. Harris lost the ball in a tackle near the Gateshead line and it flicked up off the boot of Daryl Powell straight into Marc Glanville's arms, Harris compounding the ill- fortune with the conversion.

Gateshead looked enterprising and made any number of half breaks but could not get through the Leeds defence and began to make handling errors as they forced their passes.

They paid for the rough edges that were creeping into their play when a knock-on and two penalties moved Leeds from one end of the field to the other and Harris's dummy and dart for the line took him over. His kick continued Gateshead's tough introduction to Super League, but two minutes before half-time they made their breakthrough. Will Robinson put in a cross-field kick that Leroy Rivett lost under pressure, allowing Craig Simon to claim their debut try.

The majority of a near 6,000 crowd that was respectable under the circumstances at last had something to cheer. Four minutes into the second half there were almost two more points on the board. Ian Herron, who had missed badly with his conversion, hit the post with a penalty. All the same, Gateshead had an inkling that things might be turning in their favour when, in the space of minutes, Francis Cummins had a try disallowed for Leeds and Simon took Willie Peters's long pass to scramble over for Gateshead's second.

Herron again hit the uprights to prevent Gateshead getting any closer than six points and then more trickery from Harris, with a forward pass to Powell, put them further in arrears.

Robinson's kick, taken by the leaping Matt Daylight, brought Gateshead back into it on the hour, Herran this time landing the goal from the touchline.

Gateshead: Sammut, Herron, Grogan, Simon, Daylight, Robinson, Peters, Lee, Walters, Green, Wilson, Flesch, Grimaldi. Substitutes: Bird, S Allwood, Maher, Hick.

Leeds: Harris, Rivett, Golden, Godden, Cummins, Powell, Sheridan, Fleary, Newton, McDermott, Hay, Farrell, Glanville. Substitutes: Stirling, Mathiou, Jackson, Sinfield.

Referee: J Connolly (Wigan).

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