#Thunder20Years – Gateshead celebrate Championship promotion

As part of our celebration of 20 years of Thunder, today the club looks back to August 2008 and the final match of the season, where promotion to the Championship was celebrated with a win over Doncaster.

Report kindly provided by League Express – Jeff Bowron reports.

UNPRECEDENTED scenes followed this victory, Gateshead’s 19th from 22 games, as Thunder players, staff and fans celebrated the presentation of the Co-op National League Two trophy in style.

The Tynesiders ground out a victory against a Doncaster side with one eye on the forthcoming play-offs, a win which ensured that the North East outpost club finished a tremendous campaign on a deserved high, and they can now look forward to first division football for the first time next year.

Dave Woods has transformed a side, which, in his first season as coach, had only Blackpool to thank for avoiding the wooden spoon.

Thursday’s televised clash at Newcastle Falcons’ Kingston Park ground saw the decision to offer half-price £5 admission and several hundred free tickets come up trumps as one of the best crowds in the reformed club’s eight-year history, 1,751, produced a carnival atmosphere.

“Everyone says that we haven’t got many spectators but they never shut up for the whole game,” said an overjoyed Woods.

“It was a tremendous game of Rugby League and a great spectacle. We lost a couple of guys early on which increased the pressure, but the boys stood up to the challenge. They have worked very hard this season and deserve everything they get.”

Gateshead’s rise from no-hopers to title heroes was particularly sweet to local stalwarts Neil Thorman and Kevin Neighbour, with the latter fittingly scoring two of Thunder’s three tries.

Thorman, Neighbour and winger Graham Stephenson, three of five locally produced players in the 17 that faced the Dons, have all been through the bad times at Gateshead.

With Sky Sports covering a Gateshead game for the first time since 1999 it was Australian pair Ben McAlpine and Lewis McPhail who got the promotion party underway.

McAlpine broke from just inside his own half to send fullback Stuart Kain free only for Corey Lawrie to save the day. However, the alert McAlpine however quickly put McPhail over from close in.

By the quarter of an hour mark, both Kain and McPhail’s games were over due to injury but McAlpine switched to fullback with good effect while young Tynesider Ryan Clarke came off the bench to take over the hooker duties.

Thunder doubled their lead when Dean Jamieson’s grubber ricocheted off a defender and was then inadvertently flicked towards the in-goal by Andreas Bauer for Neighbour to pounce for a try, which was confirmed by the video referee.

The Dons got a foothold in the game with two tries in seven minutes on a pitch that cut up badly after two weeks of rain on Tyneside. A Luke Gale reverse kick bounced kindly for Josh Weedon to score the first of his two tries and then Lawrie dived over from dummy half after Thunder had been caught offside.

Neighbour’s second try also interested the TV official who decided that there had not been a double movement and Dan Russell’s conversion gave the Tynesiders an 18-12 half-time advantage.

In such a tight game, the first try of the second half was always going to be vital Ð and so it proved as Dylan Nash finished off a good move involving Russell and Michael Knowles.

It was to be the home side’s only touchdown of the half as the Dons dominated possession only to come up against a typically resilient Thunder defence.

Zeb Luisi, just as he had been in the Dons’ narrow Northern Rail Cup win at Gateshead, had another big game and kept his side in it on the hour as, after Russell had been held in-goal following a series of penalties, he ran at the Gateshead line to put Weedon put through a gap.

The Dons applied further pressure but couldn’t breach a solid Gateshead line on a night that belonged to all those that have kept the Rugby League flame burning on Tyneside.

Gateshead’s finest hour had, ironically, been their last, but a new dawn for professional Rugby League in the North East now beckons with a rebranded club and new base as optimism abounds.

THUNDER

Stuart Kain, Stewart Sanderson, Kevin Neighbour, Ben McAlpine, Graham Stephenson, Neil Thorman, Dan Russell, Jason Payne, Lewis McPhail, Tabua Cakacaka, Dylan Nash, Michael Knowles, Dean Jamieson, Ryan Clarke, Matt Barron, Netani Suka, Brendon Hlad

Tries: McPhail (5), Neighbour (21, 35), Nash (47)

Goals: Russell 3/4

DONS

Zeb Luisi, Dean Colton, Andreas Bauer, Shawn Leafe, Wayne Riettie, Kyle Briggs, Luke Gale, Michael Healey, Corey Lawrie, Alex Benson, Peter Green, Craig Lawton, Josh Weedon, Chris Buttery, Nathan Freer, Mark Castle, Chris Lawson

Tries: Weedon (25, 61), Lawrie (32)

Goals: Gale 3/3