SUNDERLAND succumbed to another heavy defeat on Saturday after once again paying the price for a poor start.
Stockton took charge in the first half and, although they were kept in check for much of the second half, ran out 41-7 winners.
Stockton came out all guns blazing from the opening whistle and soon had the Sunderland line under pressure.
A Sunderland error close to their own line gave Stockton the feed at the scrum and for the first time in a long time Sunderland’s normally dependable scrum was pushed back towards their own line.
When Andy Wordsworth kicked the ball out from the feet of the Stockton eight, the referee ran under the posts to award a penalty try.
Stockton were soon on the front foot again as Sunderland seemed incapable of making a tackle and two quick-fire tries gave them a 21-point lead with less than 20 minutes on the clock.
It was half an hour into the game before Sunderland threatened the Stockton 22, but whenever it looked like Sunderland may create a chance, their decision-making deserted them or needless penalties brought the attack to a halt.
Stockton wrapped up a bonus point before half-time with a fourth try and a penalty giving them a 29-0 lead at half-time.
Coach Fraser Kennedy had some harsh words to say at the interval and to some extent they had an impact as Sunderland were much improved in the second period.
Tom Hirst replaced Chris Geehan in the front row and managed to shore up a Sunderland scrum which until that point had been totally dominated in the set-piece.
The improvement in the scrum provided a platform for Sunderland to put together their best spell of the game as they managed to exert some early pressure.
Time and again, though ,Sunderland failed to find that last killer pass to unlock the Stockton defence until a fine solo try from fly-half Matt Francis finally got Sunderland on the board.
A great second half defensive effort kept Stockton scoreless for most of the period, but it took its toll late on as Stockton capitalised on a tiring Sunderland defence to score two more tries to run out 41-7 winners.
Sunderland II were disappointed to learn that Seaham were unable to raise a team so their fixture was cancelled.
Sunderland III lost out 61-48 in a highly-entertaining fixture with Gosforth.
Sunderland’s points came through a Wayman hat-trick as well as tries for Wright, Stevenson and a penalty try. John Grainger added 11 points with the boot.