Ashbrooke on the rebound

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SUNDERLAND aim to bounce back from last week’s Redcar disappointment by securing a victory against Barnard Castle on Saturday – in their first run-out at Ashbrooke this season.

Barnard Castle are understood to be missing a number of their students who played in their opening victory of the season last week against Seaton Carew, so it will be interesting to see what kind of side they bring north for the Durham and Northumberland Division Two clash (3pm).

From Sunderland’s point of view, there are more enforced changes to the side that started last week.

Last week’s half-back partners are both missing – Gavin Stirling (work commitments) and Ian Dobson (hand injury) – so Michael Brace is once more pressed into first-team action, with Michael Heffernan stepping up from full-back to replace Dobson at fly-half.

Sam Vaughan replaces Heffernan at full-back and youngster Harry Levison will make his first-team debut in the centres alongside Tom Townend.

There is mixed news in the forwards with John Drummond returning to the back row giving Sunderland more lineout options and the kind of aggressive defence that they were missing last week. Joe Arrowsmith has returned from holiday so he starts on the bench, providing another welcome boost for the Wearsiders.

In the front row, it is a different story with Damion Martinez and Alan Ross both unavailable, so Chris Geehan moves to loosehead and Ryan Buckley continues at tighthead, with Pete Harrison making his first start of the season at hooker.

Buoyed by last week’s win over Winlaton Vulcans, Sunderland seconds entertain Percy Park in what promises to be a much tougher encounter given that the North Tynesiders scored 106 points against Westoe last week.

Sunderland I (home to Barnard Castle, meet 1.30pm, KO 3pm): Geehan, Harrison, Buckley, Carter, Belfield, Drummond, Finlay, Watt, Brace, Heffernan, Abraham, Levison, Townend, Arkley, Vaughan, Hall, Arrowsmith, O’Donnovan.

Sunderland II (home to Percy Park, meet 1.15pm, KO 3pm): Dean Marshall, to be confirmed, Kristian Summerside, Clive Fish, Shaun Marshall, Adam Reay, Mick Mathews, James Hanson, Joe Lamb, Mickey Walton, Liam Evans, Colin Wallace, Jamie Cowans, Simon Coleman, Peter Garvie. Subs: Ellis Allen, Dave Ditchburn, Rory Flindall, Huw Silcox, Christopher Turner

H Durham City are away to Gateshead in Division One, while free-scoring Horden have an attractive derby trip to old rivals Hartlepool Rovers as the Colliers look to make it three wins out of three.