After a few weeks without a game due to a lack of league fixtures and a cancellation against Alnwick last week, it was good for the team to get a run out against a Hartlepool Rovers side that had been doing very well in the league. Our opponents had spent the weekend we were forced to call off against Alnwick beating 2nd placed Horden, away, by a decent margin, so we knew we were in for a tough game.
The team was a bit of an unfamiliar one, but definitely had enough talent to achieve the result needed to get the second team season back on track. A bonus point win was the aim to push us back up the league at stake a claim for the number 2 spot.
Rovers started the game the better side, their pack getting the upper hand at the set piece and in the loose. Gateshead struggled to get decent ball for their back line, and Rovers were getting more men to the breakdown and turning over Gateshead ball. Their backs were breaking tackles and everything from the Gateshead team seemed a little bit loose. We went into the break 12 points down (22-10). While the margin was maybe a bit harsh on us, there was no doubting we had been second best up to that point.
We all knew what had to be done in the second half, it seemed like every player was playing at 75% at best. We were down by a couple of scores, but in all honesty, we knew if we pulled ourselves together we hadn’t seen anything from Rovers to suggest we couldn’t turn it around.
The second half was definitely an improvement. Henners came on and made an immediate impact in gaining the upper hand at the line out. The set pieces began to function better and the backs started to get decent wall, and when they did they looked dangerous. Martin Heelbeck was breaking tackles and making yards, and Dave Richardson was making the most of his chance at Full Back, looking really solid and taking the chance to counter attack well when the opportunity arose. Micky Ewart broke up Rovers attacks with some big hits in midfield on several occasions, and we definitely started to get the opposition rattled.
Gateshead were working really hard around the pitch and by this stage had taken a slim lead, but were forced to work ever harder when David Harbron was ‘incorrectly’ yellow carded for offside at a ruck on the Gateshead 5m line. (it was totally the right decision, he was miles offside, but David asked that I put the word ‘incorrectly’ into that sentence to signify his displeasure with the call). To be fair to Hardy, that blatant offside apart, he showed real determination in putting in a lot of work around the park, culminating in a huge hit on a Rovers forward from a quick throw in that the Rovers player was not expecting, and will probably remember with a grimace for quite some time.
Hardy came back on with the scores level at 33-33. There was about 10 minutes left at this point, and the game was there to be won, we managed to work ourselves a line out inside the Rovers 22, the ball went over its target and found its way to Jon Aslet. Jon took the ball forward, and 3 or 4 Rovers players attempted to bring him down before the try line, Jon wasn’t having it though, and powered on taking the tacklers with him. He drove over the line for what was to be the winning try.
Stephen Waddle scored a difficult conversion, which must have been like a body blow to the Rovers morale, giving us a seven point lead.
Jon was immense in the second row all afternoon, he secured almost every Rovers kick off, and was definitely a stand out performer in the forwards. Him scoring the winning try was fitting.
Rovers came back and gave the lads a couple of scary moments before the ref finally called for full time. Final score- a hard won victory at 40-33. 5 tries and a bonus point win against a top side in this league can’t be sniffed at, and the improvements on performance given in the second half will hopefully give the lads a boost for the rest of the season.
Tries were scored by Martin Heelbeck (2), Simon Cruise, John Aslet and Paul Ingham; Stephen Waddle kicked really well all day, and finished with 15 points in the form of 3 conversions, and 3 penalties. (That’s right, I have some actual facts this week, eat that everyone).