Due to fixture congestion both teams agreed to play this game as a “double header” i.e. result to count for two games to cover the game cancelled at Northern due to a waterlogged pitch. Gateshead fielded a strong team with ex Northern prop Matty Hearst in their line up and were confident going into the game. Northern by contrast had a mixture of youth and experience with four of last season’s Colts starting and Barry Blackburn making his first appearance of the season after being with the first team. As the game unfolded in the first half the Northern pack struggled to get good ball against a big Gateshead unit. On 13 minutes following some robust play by a couple of the Gateshead forwards, flanker Chris Raffo was harshly sin-binned for squaring up to the Gateshead pack. Gateshead were awarded the penalty and elected for a 5 metre scrum which they duly scored a push over try from on 14 minutes and converted for the extra points. Northern’s seven man pack to their credit stuck to their task and on 24 minutes a speculative kick ahead resulted in a smartly taken unconverted try by right wing David Bloxham after the Gateshead defenders made a mess of fielding it. Northern were restored to full numbers after thiswhen flanker Chris Raffo returnedfrom the sin bin.Northern looked to have weathered the storm as Gateshead were struggling to break Northern down however a missed tackle on 37 minutes resulted in a Gateshead try out wide left which their fly half converted. Worse still with the clock on 40 minutes another missed tackle on the right resulted in another converted try for Gateshead to leave the half time score: Gateshead 19 – Northern Wanderers 5.
Following a constructive half time team talk, Northern reorganised their pack and started the second half positively. The game plan to move the ball quickly to the fast men worked well when on 44 minutes a great move saw right wing David Bloxham get over the line only to drop the ball when double tackled. The wing was not to be denied and following a great kick return from full back Joss Pinsent the ball was passed to him and he powered past the scramble defence for a fine unconverted try on 46 minutes. Northern were in the ascendancy here and from a midfield scrum were able to move the ball left through the hands for looping fly half Spike Strang to score an unconverted try out wide on 57 minutes. Gateshead were shaken by this and it came as no surprise when Northern put another slick passage of play together with their backs for centre Rory Gibson to outpace the defence and score Northern’s fourth unconverted try out wide on 63 minutes to take the lead. The Northern pack now had the measure of their opponents and were containing their opponents in their own half. The game looked to be closing out with a narrow win for Northern when on 79 minutes, scrum half Chris Ure surged forward from a Northern scrum on the Gateshead 22 and wrong footed the defence to score Northern’s fifth try. The conversion attempt was pulled wide so Gateshead still had a chance to win the game. Northern managed to make a hash of the restart and Gateshead had a series of scrumsin the Northern 22 which the Northern pack defended magnificently. Gateshead knocked on and the referee blew for time to cap a great display of character from the Northern team. Final score:Gateshead19 – northern Wanderers 25.
Northern collected 10 points from this game which puts them one point clear at the top of Conference 3 with 6 games left to play.
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