Thunder have chance to break relegation sequence

Gateshead Thunder could tomorrow ensure they avoid a bottom-placed finish for the first time in four seasons.

Gateshead Thunder's Jason Payne
Gateshead Thunder's Jason Payne

Gateshead Thunder could tomorrow ensure they avoid a bottom-placed finish for the first time in four seasons.

The bottom two teams in the Kingstone Press Championship One meet in Lydney at 3pm, when basement boys University of Gloucestershire All Golds play host to their closest rivals in the table.

Just three points separate the sides, Gateshead and Gloucester having won only two of their 14 league encounters this term.

But despite their lowly status in the standings, both clubs carry considerable momentum into the West Country tussle – most notably Gloucester, who last weekend drew 24-24 at league leaders Oldham.

The same round of matches saw Thunder taking a respectable losing bonus point at high-flying Rochdale, having done the same at fellow contenders North Wales the week before.

Prior to that Gateshead recorded win number two of the season with a hard-fought victory at South Wales, and despite head coach Kevin Neighbour (pictured above) having announced his intention to stand down at the end of the season their form has gone upwards, if anything.

Meetings between themselves and Gloucester have so far provided a mixed bag – two tries from Aaron Ollett helping them achieve a 30-10 victory in Championship One back in May.

Gloucester shaded the Northern Rail Cup encounter 18-16 when the two sides met at Blaydon Rugby Club in March, but carry a number of injury concerns going into tomorrow’s home encounter.

Coach Brad Hepi, a former New Zealand Maori international, will await updates on a host of his charges before finalising his starting XIII, with son Tyla also a doubt after impressing in Super League last week for Hull.

All Golds captain and Scotland international Mike Stewart is a major doubt with a hamstring problem, and is rated “unlikely” by club medical staff for the game as he targets the upcoming Rugby League World Cup instead.

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