SUNDERLAND’S season got off to the worst possible start on Saturday when they lost their league opener 25-18 against league new boys Blyth.
Sunderland made the brighter start of the two sides, putting pressure on the Blyth line from the start.
The game was only a few minutes old when a powerful driving maul from the Sunderland pack created the platform for the evergreen Michael Brace to celebrate his 26th consecutive year of first team rugby with Sunderland’s first try of the season.
It wasn’t much longer before Sunderland slipped back into their old habits from last season.
As Blyth made progress towards the Sunderland 22 they spun the ball wide and Blyth’s outside centre waltzed untouched through the Sunderland midfield to score under the posts. The conversion gave Blyth a 7-5 lead.
Guy Kingsley Smith provided the spark for Sunderland to take the lead selling the Blyth backline a dummy before scooting through a gap to score.
Again Sunderland couldn’t hold on to the lead for long when a speculative long kick was poorly dealt with yards out from the Sunderland line. Blyth forced the turnover and had the easiest of tasks to add a second try.
It was Sunderland, though, that went into half-time with a slender lead when Guy Kingsley Smith kicked a penalty from 40 metres out.
Playing into the wind in the second half was always going to be a tough task and the Blyth fly half dictated the game with his boot forcing Sunderland to play the majority of the half from within their own 22.
Three quick scores after half time were enough to effectively seal the game for Blyth. Firstly a converted try gave Blyth the lead back and then two long range penalties extended that lead to 25-13.
To Sunderland’s credit, they didn’t give up and on their few ventures into the Blyth half Sunderland did look dangerous but those visits were few and far between.
Jamie Maclennan pegged back Blyth’s lead with a well taken try in the corner. The try came at a cost though as Maclennan suffered a badly broken nose in the act of scoring the try and had to be replaced.
Sunderland thought they were back in the game when Andy Wordsworth touched down for another Sunderland try but inexplicably the ref adjudged that the ball had been held up.
One last late charge from Sunderland came to nothing when Blyth forced a penalty a couple of yards out from the line and kicked to touch to end the game and leave Sunderland with plenty to think about before next weeks trip to Ryton.
Sunderland seconds fared better than the first team as they ran out 7-5 winners against Blyth seconds with Stevie Graham scoring Sunderland’s try.