Slippery Fish seals Sunderland victory at Newton Aycliffe
Sunderland claimed a battling 23-15 away to Newton Aycliffe in Durham Northumberland Two.
The home side sat above Sunderland ahead of the game and were fresh after not having a game the previous week.
James Fraser was recalled to the Sunderland squad as front row cover, while Nathan Watson was rewarded for his efforts in training with a place in the squad. Ross Hughes was also called up in place of his brother Scott – but the Ashbrooke side travelled without a recognised back replacement.
Aycliffe were keen to make an early impression and over-exuberance incurred a penalty converted by Leon Ryan on three minutes.
Sunderland played controlled rugby with Brad Fish urging his team-mates forward with a series of well-executed box kicks throughout the game.
On 13 minutes, Luke Robinson popped a short pass to Fish who took ball on at pace and passed to Harry Connell who was in close support to outrun the Aycliffe backs to score out wide.
The home side countered within five minutes as their outside centre broke through scoring under posts, the conversion taking Aycliffe to within one point at 8-7.
They then went on to take the lead on 23 minutes from a penalty as Sunderland infringed at the ruck.
Sunderland’s defence in the tight was excellent especially Ryan Buckley, Pete Harrison and Kieron Hanlon’s efforts to drive back Aycliffe’s pack.
Harrison and Lock Aarron Stevenson made hard yards all game and Dan Gray and Luke Robinson looked to carry the ball at every opportunity.
Jack Hope found space but just could not force the try.
Aycliffe had defended lineouts well in the early exchanges and were forced to defend on their five-metre line from a Michael Heffernan penalty kick to touch.
Hooker Pete Harrison’s throw found Andrew Wordsworth. Aycliffe were not able to stop the maul as flanker Dan Gray grounded the ball to the left of the uprights.
The missed conversion saw the half end 13-10 in Sunderland’s favour.
Despite the greasy conditions, both sides tried to throw the ball about, ensuring both packs had a decent workout at scrum time.
Brad Fish sent a long kick behind Aycliffe and as the ball slowed Connell ran onto it to sprint in and score under the posts, though the conversion was missed.
Not to be outdone, Aycliffe’s right winger scored a lovely try showing great skill to take the ball on at pace, chip over and field his own kick to score out wide. The missed conversion left the score at 18-15 within seven minutes of the half kicking off.
Sunderland’s back three coped well as Aycliffe took to the boot with Leon Ryan counter attacking well, and making notable tackles.
From 10 metres out, Brad Fish picked his way through Aycliffe’s chasing defence to score wide of the posts, extending Sunderland’s lead to eight points and securing the try-scoring bonus point.
Aycliffe continued to press until final whistle with close quarter forward attacks, a great hand off ending Ryan Buckley’s game, but they were not able to add to their tally.
Sunderland’s Development squad played a well-contested physical encounter, losing out 26-10 to a Seaham side bolstered by players from other clubs.