A LATE two try surge gave Sunderland an excellent 22-9 victory over a dogged Hartlepool Rovers, a last minute try denying the visitors even a losing bonus point.
With the advantage of a strong wind to their backs, Sunderland got off to a flying start with a try in the opening minutes.
Strong running from the Sunderland forwards on the left allowed them to creep into the Rovers 22 and tie up the Rovers defence.
The ball was then spun wide and Matt Goforth cantered away down the right to score in the corner.
However, any thoughts Sunderland had of running away with the game were soon squashed as Rovers came back strongly, making ground through their forwards.
The strong headwind made it difficult for Rovers to sustain any pressure and a lot of their good work was done in the middle of the pitch, meaning they rarely threatened the Sunderland line.
Sunderland took advantage of the wind to play largely in the Rovers half, but despite plenty of pressure on the Rovers line some solid and physical defence kept the home side at bay.
A Rovers penalty before half-time reduced the deficit, leaving Sunderland frustrated that despite the advantage of the elements, they turned around with just a slender two-point lead to show for their work.
Hartlepool quickly took advantage of the wind at their backs, taking the lead with a penalty early on in the half.
A second penalty soon after extended their lead and though Greg Littlewood added a penalty for Sunderland to reduce the arrears to a single point, the writing looked on the wall for Sunderland as they struggled to get out of their own half.
They rode their luck at times and it seemed only a matter of time before Rovers added to their lead.
Sunderland escaped a couple of close shaves when two Rovers kicks at goal drifted wide of the posts.
A slick Rovers backs’ move then looked to have put their left winger in at the corner, but the touch judge ruled a tackle from Matt Goforth had pushed the winger into touch as he crossed the line.
With the clock ticking down, Sunderland managed to make their way into the Rovers 22 and play through a number of tight phases.
With the Rovers defence in disarray, the ball was fed to Pete Harrison in acres of space only a few metres from the line and he touched down to nudge Sunderland back into the lead, Greg Littlewood adding the extra two points.
There was still time for Sunderland to add a third try and cruelly deny Rovers the losing bonus point their play probably deserved.
A scrum five metres out from the Rovers line gave Sunderland the perfect platform and the Sunderland pack got a shove on, sending the Hartlepool pack back towards their line.
Rovers popped their bind and stood up in the front row to halt the Sunderland drive and the referee had no hesitation in running straight under the posts to award a penalty try.
Littlewood’s conversion gave Sunderland a hard-fought 22-9 victory.
H Sunderland seconds had an easier afternoon, recording a comfortable 36-7 victory over Jarrovians.
Tries from Roberts, Wordsworths and two from Geehan gave Sunderland a 22-0 half time lead.
Although they struggled to keep the same pace in the second half, they addd two further scores from Mackie and Tolley, with Michael Heffernan adding two conversions.
H Sunderland thirds left it late against Morpeth in a match that acted as a league double header, with the winners taking seven valuable points.
Trailing 10-8, Sunderland were awarded a penalty, which was slotted over by Keith Richardson with the last kick of the game to claim victory.
Sunderland’s other points came through a Brad Fish try and another Richardson penalty.