Gateshead Thunder 26 Hemel Stags 22
Gateshead Thunder made it three wins from their last four games in Kingstone Press Championship One after they edged out Hemel Stags in Hertfordshire.
The margin of victory after a scrappy game at Pennine Way was four points, though Hemel’s fourth and final try came in the last minute. Gateshead also scored four tries, all converted, the experienced Jamie Rooney and Matty Beharral sharing five goals. Thunder bounced back after a heavy defeat at leaders Hunslet Hawks in their previous outing, new signings Louis Sherrif and Lee Mapals both scoring debut tries. It was Dewsbury Rams’ Sherrif who gave Gateshead an early lead, which was cancelled out four minutes later by Aaron Small. Both sides traded tries throughout the game, free-scoring Thunder captain Jason Payne restoring his side’s lead only for Eddie Mbaraga to respond at the other end.
Back Omari Caro, however, crossed two minutes before the break and with Rooney tagging on the extras Thunder led 18-12 at the halfway point.
The second half continued in the same vein, neither side able to dominate the football and pull away, Gateshead always in front. Crucially it was the Tyneside outfit who again struck first through Mapals’ converted try to open up a 12 point lead, but the Stags refused to buckle.
Dan Lajazouli reduced the arrears, Barry John Swindells kicking the conversion early in the final quarter, but Thunder were not to let victory slip from their grasp.
A Beharral penalty five minutes from time left Hemel behind the eight ball, full-back James Cameron’s last-gasp touchdown too little, too late for the hosts.
Hemel Stags: Cameron, Morgan, Ingarfield, Small, Hill, Brown, Coleman, Howitt, Simmons, Ljazouli, Clough, Swindells, Mbaraga
Subs (all used): Kavanagh, Jones, Navarette, Chester
Gateshead Thunder: Sheriff, Mapals, Heil, Brown, Caro, Beharrel, Rooney, Barron, Stamp, Ollett, Payne, Esslemont, Hough
Subs (all used): Hough, Fewlass, Bowering, Blades