Gateshead Storm and Jarrow Vikings locked horns for the fourth time this season in what promised to be a gripping finale to the 2013 North East Premier rugby league season and the rugby league folk of the North East flocked to Peterlee to see what would be a guaranteed first this year – a victorious North East team at Helford road.
Fuelled by a substantial breakfast from the Bascule Bar Gateshead came out of the blocks fast, completing their first set and forcing an error from Jarrow deep in their own half the first time they had the ball. A Jarrow hand on the last tackle gave Gateshead an extra six tackles to cross the line. They didn’t need asking twice. Reece Young picked the ball up from acting half back and after assessing all available options decided to keep the ball for himself running over the Jarrow line relative unopposed to give Storm the lead. Adam Houston added the simple conversion to make it 6 – 0.
Jarrow’s cause was not helped two minutes later when influential half back Sinclair Matthews had to leave the field with an ankle injury that saw him leave at the end of the game on crutches.
Storm, led by power house forwards Richie Metcalfe and Louie Moore, showed no mercy completing set after set in the opening 20 minutes and relentless defence was forcing numerous errors from the Jarrow team. The pressure eventually told with two quick tries in 4 minutes. Luke Banham touching down in the right hand corner after a superb Louie Moore offload that took four Jarrow players out of the game and Richard Squires touching down in the opposite corner following great handling from David Cash and Scott Woods. Houston missed the first difficult conversion, but made up for this with the second. The score now stood at 16 – 0 and Gateshead looked like they were threatening to run away with the game.
However, Jarrow have not been a dominant force in the North East for no reason and fought back well and spent the next 15 minutes camped in the Storm half. Gateshead didn’t help themselves by giving the ball away and conceding needless penalties. Resolute defence kept Jarrow out time after time but eventually Graham Lupton managed to squeeze through some tired players over the line and converted his own try to make the score 16 – 6.
Jarrow continued to camp on the Storm line, but up popped Adam Houston with another cheeky intercept, his third in three games against Jarrow. The first saw him run 90 yards to score his try of the season, the second was a magnificent 75 yard meandering run. The ecstatic fans on the side line were wondering what this one would have in store, but before their minds could run into overload he was pounced on by three Jarrow bodies.
With half time approaching Jarrow produced a scintillating display of off the cuff rugby that took them from one side of the pitch to the other and back again. Storm knocked on from the last tackle kick and from the scrum Jarrow shifted the ball wide to winger Todd Riley who dived over in the corner to make the score 16 – 10 to Gateshead at half time.
At this stage the match was looking remarkable similar to when the two sides met in the North East Cup final and so it continued. Jarrow came out of the blocks fastest in the second half and helped by another penalty conceded by Storm Tom Beaumont jumped over the Storm Line from acting half back 3 minutes after the restart, Graham Lupton adding the extras to tie the match at 16 – 16.
The game was in the balance now, but Gateshead returned to what was giving them success in the first half – completing sets and defending stoutly. The war of attrition carried on for another 10 minutes Gateshead grinding Jarrow down piece by piece. It seemed inevitable that Storm would cross the line again and so it came when they forced a drop out. Great go forward put them in a position to shift the ball left where second row David Cash hit a beautiful short line to ghost through a gap in the Jarrow defence. From there on in it was a foot race with the Jarrow full back to cross the line, one which Cash won. Houston added the conversion to give Storm the lead again 22 – 16.
Shortly afterwards an unlikely ball player emerged in the shape of the Storm coach and Maltese captain Chris Parker. Receiving the ball just to the right of the posts he performed an audacious side step to confuse the oncoming Jarrow defence and then through a long speculative pass to the blind side. This was collected by half back Richard Moody who took the ball on and passed even wider to Banham who barged over for his second try of the game. With Houston off the field the goal kicking duties were passed to Richard Squires who missed.
A minute later Gateshead extended their lead even further when Reece Young dropped a goal from 35 metres.
Gateshead was now in the ascendancy and the hard work in preseason was starting to show. Storms strong running and Jarrow’s tiring defence was not a good combination for the Vikings and Scott Woods ghosted through a gap on the last tackle to touch down. Squires once again failed to trouble the scorers.
The game looked over, but Jarrow are not a team to give up and continued to throw the ball around. Storms second Maltesian, man mountain Paul Parkinson managed to get on the end of these passed and looked to have a clear run to the line. With his recent nuptial celebrations looking to have robbed him of more than a yard of pace it wasn’t to be, but the three minutes he took to run the thirty metres before he was caught ran the clock down nicely.
Last say of the day went to Richard Squires who didn’t want to leave the field with a 0% kicking record, so slotted over a penalty from 30 metres out to take the score to Storm 33 Jarrow 16.
Gateshead can now look forward confidently to the Harry Jepson Trophy where they will hope to progress further than they did last year.