GATESHEAD Thunder’s two-year wait for a league win continues but the Co-op Championship One basement dwellers gave leaders Barrow Raiders a real run for their money.
The margin of defeat was harsh on a gutsy Thunder who made a depleted Barrow work hard for a victory that was only cemented late in the game.
It was the first of three games at Filtrona Park, Thunder’s temporary home, which staged professional rugby league in South Shields for the first time. Whether the move to South Tyneside becomes a permanent one remains to be seen but Filtrona Park provided a more typical rugby league experience than the vacuous 11,850 capacity International Stadium.
The home side revelled in their new surroundings and trailed by only ten points at half-time while having plenty of the ball in the second half.
But while Gateshead spurned chances, table-topping Barrow took more of theirs and also had three tries disallowed.
Playmaker Scott Kaighan scored twice in the last five minutes to complete his hat-trick as Barrow, missing eight players, made it nine wins from ten league games.
Influential full-back Lee Hanley put the Cumbrians in front early on and there were further tries from prop Jamie Butler and Kaighan in the opening quarter.
Thunder, however, refused to buckle and replied late in the half when half back Chris Parker twisted in the tackle to touchdown.
Matt Barron bombed tries in each half after being set up by Jason Payne’s excellent break and Parker’s short pass.
Gateshead’s profligacy was punished when Ryan Shaw scored early in the second half though Paul Stamp stretched out an arm to keep the hosts in it.
James Nixon’s long range intercept try scuppered hopes of a shock Thunder victory before Barron took another pass from the lively Parker to power over.
It had been a stirring performance from Kevin Neighbour’s strugglers but the Raiders confirmed their title potential when they scored 12 points in the final four minutes.
GATESHEAD THUNDER: Condron,Thackeray, Neilson, Brown, Ackerley, Parker, Beasley, Waller, Hodgson, McBride, Barron, Barker, Payne. Replacement (not used): Stamp, Steen, Welton, O’Mara