Rugby League: Thunder in the sun
Dave Hadfield was a schoolboy convert to rugby league, the game which, one way or another, has dominated his life ever since. After working for newspapers in Shropshire and Blackpool (where he covered the fortunes of Blackpool Borough) he travelled the world, working mainly in Hong Kong and Sydney. He became The Independent's rugby league man in 1990 and has written five books on the game and broadcast extensively for Sky and the BBC. Dave played his last game at the age of 53 and would have set up a try if anyone could have been bothered supporting his break. When not writing about the sport, he now limits himself to a bit of tick and pass with his local club, the Bolton Mets. Family includes supporters - of varying degrees of dedication - of Salford, Wigan, Sheffield Eagles and St George Illawarra.
Sunday 11 April 1999
SUPER LEAGUE'S new imports got a bit of sun on their backs for the first time and showed what a good rugby team they could develop into by beating the side that finished third last year rather more emphatically than the final margin suggests.
Always quicker and more creative, Gateshead gave Halifax some help to get back into the game but never looked in serious danger of letting it slip away. Given more conditions that remind the majority of the team of their native Australia, rather than Siberia, Kerrod Walters' side will beat many more opponents before their inaugural year is over.
Apart from a lax five minutes, Gateshead dominated the first half, taking an early lead when Adam Maher stole the ball and Danny Lee, standing up in the tackle, slipped the pass that allowed Walters to go over. A conversion and a penalty from Ian Herron extended the Thunders' lead and when Craig Simon went in for their second try they looked well capable of piling up a big score.
But they began to undermine their own efforts when Brett Green gave away a foolish penalty at the play-the-ball to allow Halifax to step up the momentum of their attack. Gavin Clinch took advantage by side-stepping his way over the line and leaving Graham Holroyd a simple conversion.
Holroyd's angled kick then forced Matt Daylight to carry the ball into touch and, from the resulting possession, the stand-off's well-judged pass released Daryl Cardiss. Only Holroyd's fluffed kick protected what was left of Gateshead's hard-earned lead, but they took control again on the half-hour when Ben Sammut followed up Will Robinson's kick to touch down.
An eight-point lead went some way towards summing up Gateshead's superiority, but it was halved soon after the break when another clever kick from Holroyd allowed David Hodgson to race in at the corner. The Halifax stand-off's mixed afternoon continued, however, when he threw the pass that was intercepted by Willie Peters, who won a 50-yard race for the line.
Sustained pressure failed to bring the try that would have killed off a flat and uninspired Halifax, leaving the lingering fear that the game could again be lost in its latter stages, just as it was at Warrington on Easter Monday.
But this is not the Halifax side of last year and the new boys hung on to win convincingly enough. The only depressing aspect was that, even on a decent afternoon and with all the signs that the Thunder are going to be competitive in Super League this year, there were only 2,340 there to see them.
Gateshead: Sammut; Herron, Maiden, Simon, Daylight; Robinson, Peters; Lee, Walters, Green, Felsch, Maher, Grimaldi.
Substitutes used: Wilson, Hick, Collins, S Allwood.
Halifax: Cardiss; Gibson, Bloem, Bouveng, Pinkney; Holroyd, Clinch; Broadbent, Rowley, Marshall, Clark, Gillespie, Randall.
Substitutes used: Craig, Hodgson, Hobson, Seal.
Referee: S Ganson (St Helens).
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