Oxford RL’s winning start to their Kingstone Press Championship One campaign came to a abrupt halt as they slipped to a 47-28 defeat at Gateshead Thunder.
The visitors were hoping to build on last week’s impressive opening-day win against London Skolars, but instead came a cropper at the Gateshead International Stadium.
Leading 18-13 early in the second half, it all went wrong for the visitors as the hosts hit back in devastating style.
Oxford got off to a good start when Alex Thompson played in Chris Clarke, who scored from close range. Jimmy Rowland added the extras.
However, the home side hit back on eight minutes, when Tom Capper outjumped Oxford winger Michael Crabtree to touch down. Carl Puckering added the extras to make it all-square.
The hosts went ahead when Joe Brown went over, Puckering adding the two points for 12-6.
But Oxford were right back in the contest when Tommy Connick’s short pass was dummied by Dave Ellison, allowing Jordan Rice to go under the posts. Rowland added the extras.
Puckering dropped a goal for the home side to put them up 13-12, only for Rowland to hit back with a penalty for a 14-12 advantage.
Oxford extended their lead in the second half when Rice and Callum Mulkeen combined to send Andrew Hoggins over in the corner for 18-13.
The visitors missed a chance to stretch their lead when JJ Baird made a fantastic break and put in Morris, but he was held up on the line and the chance was lost.
That was to prove crucial as Brown touched down out wide to cut Oxford’s lead to a point.
Oxford hit back when Sean Morris ripped the ball off Gateshead captain Jason Payne and darted between a couple of defenders to make it 22-17.
Gateshead responded Jason Payne holding off his defender to slide in for an unconverted score.
Oxford were rocked when Gateshead took the lead for the first time as Brown completed his hat-trick when he charged in under the sticks, Puckering added the extras to put Thunder 27-22 ahead.
Sloppy play saw Oxford concede back-to-back penalties and they paid the price when Payne went over, Puckering converting.
Further tries from Sam Lynch, Payne – for his treble – and Matthew Beharrell rubbed salt in Oxford’s wounds.
Although Morris grabbed his second try, converted by Rowland, the damage was done.