SUNDERLAND Flames sealed their first ever victory with a 12-10 triumph at Kendal in National Challenge North One.
After a four-week break in their league schedule, the Wearsiders were soon on the back foot as Kendal attacked from the start, with their inside centre leaving everyone for dead to bag the opening, unconverted try.
In grey, miserable conditions, Flames wisely tried to keep possession. This they did to great effect – and with supporting rucks and steady mauling, the Ashbrooke side forced Kendal back into their own half.
The pressure paid off with a break on the blindside by Amanda Hilton, who scored her second try of the season to pull the Flames level at 5-5.
Kendal hit back immediately with their second try to regain the lead.
Flames were forced into some scrambling defensive work to keep the hosts at bay, and their ball retention provided a great platform to launch the backs into space. Sunderland produced another sustained period of pressure which ended with Becky Robson released from the wing to grab her first try for the club.
Crucially, the try was converted by fly-half Laura Envy to give Flames a narrow two-point lead.
That set the scene for an incredibly close finale, with Kendal relentless with their pace as they tested Sunderland’s defence, but some superb backs-to-the-wall defending, with centre Katie Allsopp outstanding, kept the visitors ahead.
Sunderland looked set to seal the deal in the last few minutes when Becca Walker made a surging run down the wing and looked set to score only to be denied by a last-second crunching tackle.
Sunderland tried everything to get over the line, but Kendal stayed strong and eventually the ball slid away to end the game.
Delighted skipper Jenny Snowdon said: “The girls have worked their socks off all season and this well-earned victory has been a long time coming! We are back at Ashbrooke on Sunday (against Sourthport, 2pm), and we’re looking to build some momentum now we’re well and truly up and running!”