Rugby: Sunderland out to regroup after defeat at Whitby
Sunderland aim to regroup and get their season back on track after yet another away day defeat left them in second-bottom spot in Durham/Northumberland Division Two.
The Ashbrooke side, beaten 33-11 at Whitby on Saturday, now head into only their fourth home game of the season – a vital bottom-of-the-table crunch match against Winlaton Vulcans, who are the only side below them, on November 25.
Sunderland sported six enforced changes across the back line and had to reshuffle to play with a 17-man squad.
Despite the changes, Sunderland started positively and stand-in scrum half Cam Grimwood’s efforts were admirable, considering he had never played or trained in that position.
As the pack laid siege to Whitby’s try line, he was temporarily forced out of the game having taking a team mates boot to the head.
Cameron Petrie’s efforts in training were rewarded with his first senior call-up on the left wing, with Leon Ryan moving to full-back and Andrew Pears, having stepped off his Navy boat onto dry land on Friday, took the right-wing berth.
Young Petrie made a series of positive last-man tackles, as did the covering Marc Edmundson from outside centre.
Sunderland came undone on 10 minutes when a Whitby forward breeze through a gap in the ruck to open the scoring, followed up shortly after when playing a penalty advantage.
Sunderland knocked on and switched off, expecting the penalty, but, as play continued, the Whitby scrum-half seized upon the loose ball and evaded tacklers to score under posts.
A further two converted Whitby tries followed, and Luke Victory was invited to spend 10 minutes in the sin bin for offending in a ruck.
Two Ryan penalties got Sunderland on the scoresheet, but they trailed 28-6 at the break.
Colin Wallace was introduced into the centres as Arron Stephenson, who made a series of strong carries into Whitby territory, moved to loosehead prop instead of Chris Geehan, while Anth Dodds replaced Craig Elstob in the back row.
Wallace made an immediate impact with big hits and several carries and showed great awareness, kicking well into space behind a flat Whitby defence.
Elstob was reintroduced for a tiring Chris Little but was soon back off the pitch temporarily as Stevenson was sin-binned for a high tackle, requiring Geehan to come back into the scrum and Elstob making way until the card was up.
Whitby notched a further unconverted try.
Sunderland’s effort could not be faulted, typified by all-action display from captain Joe Arrowsmith, who, in the final play, took a quick tap penalty and drove through Whitby’s defence to force a long overdue try to complete the scoring.