SUNDERLAND Flames shrugged off their winter rustiness with a 24-13 victory over Chester Devas in their first game since before Christmas.
Both teams favoured a close contest up front, especially with the wind blowing across the Ryhope pitch.
Chester made life very difficult for the Flames with some good counter-rucking and they were impressively quick onto the ball from the tackle.
First blood went to the Flames from a solid scrum. Amber Stonehouse, Laura Coleman and Annabelle Guinouard combined brilliantly to set up an attacking platform for the backs, with debutant centre Lesley Wheatley unleashed on three seperate occasions to rack up an impressive hat-trick of tries.
Chester were always up for the fight though and took their chances when they arose to keep the game open – claiming two tries of their own and a well-kicked penalty.
However, the Flames kept faith in their game plan and continued to dominate the scrum as well as disrupting the lineouts, with Stonehouse outstanding.
Their efforts were further rewarded with a fourth try from winger Becky Robson to seal a crucial bonus point in a very tight league.