SUNDERLAND bounced back from last week’s disappointment as they scored eight tries in a 51-12 win against Barnard Castle in their first run out on the Ashbrooke turf.
On a glorious day that looked ideally suited to fast, running rugby, it was the Sunderland pack which blew away their counterparts to set the platform for an emphatic win.
It was the backline, though, that got Sunderland off to a flying start when early in the game Michael Heffernan, starting at 10 for the first time this season, broke through a gap in the Barnard Castle defence and ran under the posts.
Tom Townend’s conversion made it 7-0.
Sunderland kept up the early pressure and put on a display of power rugby that Barnard Castle had no answer to and which saw them notch a try scoring bonus point within the first half hour.
Peter Carter added Sunderland’s second try as he was shepherded over from a catch and drive line-out before Martin Watt added a third as a result of a pushover scrum from five metres out.
Pete Harrison then sealed the bonus point as he peeled away from the base of another catch and drive line-out and crash over in the corner.
With the game seemingly in the bag already, Sunderland took their foot of the pedal and allowed Barnard Castle back into the game.
Some lack-lustre tackling in the midfield saw the Barney centre break through a couple of tackles and race 50 metres to score in the corner.
At half-time, Sunderland were leading 24-5 but coach Fraser Kennedy was still not happy and wanted to see more from his side in the second half.
After a close 10 minutes at the start of the second half, Sunderland resumed normal service. Townend first added a simple penalty before Bryan Finlay was the beneficiary of another Sunderland catch and drive from 10 metres out.
Sunderland’s backline then got in on the act as debutant Harry Levison made space in the centres and showed great composure to put Townend in at the corner.
More sloppy defence allowed Barney in for a second try, again breaking from around the halfway line to score under the posts to allow a simple conversion. But it was only a temporary respite as Sunderland got back onto the offence.
Sunderland’s scrum had been dominant all day and when Barney had a scrum five metre out from their own line with just three minutes to go, the Sunderland pack applied the power and the ball bobbled out of the scrum as Barney went backwards and Adam Reay was first to react – touching the ball down for his first try of the season.
There was still time for one final flourish and the last score of the day was arguably Sunderland’s best.
Harry Levison again found space in the centres on the halfway line and after breaking through a gap he dummied one defender before feeding Michael Heffernan, who finished the game with his second try to leave the final score at 51-12.
Sunderland seconds ran Percy Park close but ultimately just fell short losing 17-14. That result was put into some perspective, though, by the fact that Percy Park beat Westoe by more than 100 points the week before.