SUNDERLAND kept up the pressure on Whitley Bay in the race for the second promotion spot in Durham and Northumberland Division One with a bonus point 39-25 victory at Hartlepool BBOB on Saturday.
Having being forced into several changes, the game was always a potential banana skin for the Ashbrooke side so they were delighted to come away with the full five points.
Sunderland got off to a flying start when captain Peter Carter barrelled over from close range following a good break by the backline.
BBOB came straight back and sloppy Sunderland tackling allowed the hosts under the sticks, with the conversion giving them the lead.
Two BBOB penalties extended their advantage to 13-5 and, with scrum-half Gav Stirling sent to the sin bin in conceding the second penalty, it looked like an upset could be on the cards.
But Tom Townend kicked a penalty to cut the deficit before Jake Belfield powered over from the base of a scrum to settle Sunderland’s nerves. Townend’s conversion gave them a lead that they would hold onto for the rest of the game.
Townend extended that lead to 20-13 with a neatly worked backs move that saw him score out wide.
Sunderland started the second half well and a neatly worked move from the back of the line saw Pete Harrison crash over the gainline. Quick ball was fed to Andy Wordsworth, who went through a gap and crossed over untouched for the first of his two tries.
As had been the case previously, Sunderland put themselves under pressure straight from the kick-off when they dropped the restart and gifted Hartlepool possession.
A seemingly innocuous kick through wasn’t dealt with by the Wearsiders and allowed BBOB to pounce and touch down under the sticks.
Wordsworth eased any worries Sunderland may have had about letting BBOB back into the game when he scored from close range following a series of forward drives.
Sunderland then sealed the win. Townend made 40 metres with a great solo run before several quick phases of play saw the ball end up in the hands of Grant Edmundson, on the left wing, and he crashed over.
There was still time for BBOB to claim their bonus point with the final try of the day, but Sunderland closed out the game to maintain their promotion push.
Sunderland seconds also recorded an excellent victory over Gateshead, winning 49-5.