Now known as the Salford City Reds, the home side could find little of the freedom of the city last night at The Willows against a suffocating defence that only loosened when the Thunder played a man short for 10 minutes.
Gateshead also put together some incisive attacking rugby in the first half, but without impressing McRae.
"I thought it was a dreadful game," he said. "I thought we played poorly and I'm very unhappy with the whole show."
The Thunder exerted such a grip on the game from the start that Salford had also been forced into a desperate defence by the time the visitors took the lead in the 12th minute.
A lovely short pass from Craig Wilson to Craig Simon was indicative of the high level of skill at the club.
Almost constant pressure produced a second breakthrough, Mick Jenkins' pass sending Willie Peters over and superb handling from Simon and Will Robinson sent Matt Daylight striding through for the third.
The ultra-reliable Ian Herron landed all three conversions and a penalty, while Peters dropped a goal immediately before half-time.
Gateshead came up with the first points in the second half, Peters's high kick falling for Simon, who put Daylight in at the corner for his second.
It took the sending of Jenkins to the sin-bin to get Salford moving and Gary Broadbent went over, with Garen Casey converting.
Within three minutes, they were over again, Paul Highton and Bobby Thompson making room for Paul Carige and Casey kicking the goal.
Once they were restored to their full numbers, however, Gateshead made sure of the points, Peters feeding Robinson from the scrum base.
Smith went over from Neil Baynes's pass in the last minute, but the extra numbers Salford had worked hard to attract had seen them well beaten.
Salford City Reds: Thompson; Johnson, Carige, Broadbent, Littler; Brown, Waring; Baynes, Alker, Makin, Smith, Southern, Hulme. Substitutes used: Casey, Eyres, Highton, Faimalo.
Gateshead Thunder: Sammut; Daylight, Simon, Collins, Herron; Robinson, Peters; Maher, Jenkins, Felsch, Wilson, Grimaldi, Bird. Substitutes used: Walters, Hick, Maiden, Allwood.
Referee: J Connolly (Wigan).