Yesterday's success was particularly sweet for McRae, who was sacked by St Helens at the end of last season after a three-year reign in which he won the inaugural Super League title and led them to consecutive Challenge Cup successes.
Saints never fully recovered from the shock of conceding three tries in the first 13 minutes against patched-up opponents. Gateshead, already without four regulars through injury, suffered another blow when the second row forward Craig Wilson broke a finger in the opening stages. But there was nothing wrong with the handling of the former Illawarra Steeler when he shrugged off Sean Long's tackle to prompt Matt Daylight over for his 11th try of the season after only four minutes. Three minutes later, the new Thunder captain, Tony Grimaldi, split the Saints' defence on halfway and Will Robinson took play on for his half-back partner, Willie Peters, to touch down.
Gateshead made it three tries in 10 minutes when the outstanding Grimaldi dummied his way over as the visitors waited for the kick on the last tackle. Ian Herron kicked two of the conversions, one of them off an upright, and added a 31st-minute penalty to make it 18-0. Gateshead nearly grabbed a fourth try when Robinson was held on his back over the line.
Saints clawed their way back into the game with fine tries either side of half-time. Newlove engineered a try for Chris Smith four minutes before the break, Long adding the goal, and nine minutes after the re-start Iro knocked off a series of tacklers to send Long racing to the corner.
That made it 18-10 but Herron eased the growing anxiety in the home camp with a 58th-minute penalty and McRae's men secured victory with two further tries in five minutes. First, Grimaldi took Robinson's short pass to break through on the right and send Herron in for his first try for the club and then Peters darted into the clear to get full-back Steve Collins over.
With Herron taking his goal tally to six, Gateshead were home and dry at 32-10 before Saints grabbed consolation tries through Tommy Martyn and Fereti Tuilagi. Paul Wellens was sent to the sin bin in the 78th-minute for a professional foul.
Gateshead Thunder: Collins; Herron, Grogan, Bird; Daylight, Robinson; Peters, Lee, Jenkins, Felsch, Wilson, Maher, Grimaldi. Substitutes: Simon, Maiden, S Allwood, R Allwood.
St Helens: Wellens; Smith, Iro, Newlove, Stewart; Martyn, Long; O'Neill, Cunningham, Nickle, Tuilagi, Perelini, Joynt. Substitutes: Atcheson, Davidson, Edmundson, Jonkers.
Referee: S Presley (Castleford).Reuse content