SUNDERLAND started to the New Year with a 31-15 defeat against Durham City.
The Durham and Northumberland One match was the first since the death of Jamie Maclennan, who played at Sunderland as a junior before playing for the senior sides.
Each of the junior sides at the club were at the game to celebrate his life.
They lined the edge of the pitch as the two sides and supporters held an impeccable silence before kick-off.
Sunderland started much the better. They were dominant at the scrum in particular.
However, their only reward for a brilliant opening 15 minutes was a Gavin Stirling penalty, and within two minutes of falling behind, City were ahead through a converted try.
And they increased their advantage three minutes later when their full-back raced through in the left corner. A superb conversion gave them a 14-3 lead.
Sunderland responded with a try of their own though following a five-metre scrum. The City pack couldn’t withstand the pressure from the home side and Number 8 Martin Watt was on hand at the back of the scrum to pick up and dive over with 25 minutes gone.
But yet again Durham replied with a try soon after conceding, and with eight minutes to go before half-time, they scored their bonus point try in the right corner to take a 24-8 lead.
The second half began like the first. Sunderland had the early pressure, but couldn’t find a way through, even when the visitors went down to 14 men after their second row was sent to the sin bin for a deliberate infringement close to the try line.
It took 26 minutes for the first score of the second half. Another dominant scrum from the home side gave Watt the simplest of tries. Stirling converted to reduce the gap to nine points and give the home side hope of getting something from the match.
However, it wasn’t to be as with eight minutes to go, a cross-field kick was misjudged by the Sunderland winger and the incoming City centre was on hand to collect and score to end any hopes.