SUNDERLAND put on a much-improved performance on Saturday but still slumped to yet another loss in a game that ended in farce.
Visitors Hartlepool Rovers claimed a 26-16 win at Ashbrooke, though the referee blew time on the game five minutes early.
This came after he caught a stray boot in a rather delicate area. A couple of bizzare decisions then left both sides baffled before he ended the game – denying Sunderland the opportunity to push for a bonus point.
The game started well for Sunderland with Michael Walton kicking an early penalty but Hartlepool Rovers soon hit back with a try.
Rovers had a line-out five metres out from the Sunderland line which was overthrown but Rovers got the luck of the bounce and their Number 8 dropped on the ball over the line to give them a 5-3 lead.
Sunderland then went on the offensive and were looking the more likely to score until they spilt the ball five metres out from the Rovers line.
Again Rovers got the luck of the bounce as it popped up into their centre’s hands and he was able to break free. Rovers then went the length of the field and scored their second try of the day.
If the first two Rovers tries owed a little bit to luck the third was almost gifted to them through poor Sunderland defence. Almost straight from the restart, Rovers ran the ball back at Sunderland and missed tackles allowed their winger to score under the sticks.
Sunderland then scored a try of their own as their pack pushed Rovers over from five metres out with Jake Belfield touching down so the sides turned round with Rovers leading 19-10.
The second half got off to a bad start for Sunderland when, despite pushing the Rovers pack several metres back in the scrum, Rovers were still able to pick from the base and cross the line almost untouched to claim their bonus point.
Things then got worse for Sunderland when Jamie Maclennan was forced from the field with a suspected dislocated shoulder.
The home side did come back with some good pressure and two Michael Walton penalties closed the gap but too often Sunderland were playing from their own half and rarely threatened to score tries.
H Sunderland thirds put in an impressive display after several cry-offs left them with only 14 players to travel to Northern.
Despite playing against 15, Sunderland still managed to come away with a well deserved 15-5 victory, with tries from Wallace, Cowans and Nelly.