Impressive Sunderland Under-14s succumb to first defeat of the year – as Gateshead edge thriller

Sunderland Flames' Clarissa Murphy takes on Birkenhead Park in last week's abandoned 5-5 clash at Ashbrooke
Sunderland Flames' Clarissa Murphy takes on Birkenhead Park in last week's abandoned 5-5 clash at Ashbrooke
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Impressive Sunderland Under-14s lost their first game of the year in an entertaining 26-20 reverse to Gateshead at Hill View on Sunday.

In very blustery conditions, the Ashbrooke youngsters went ahead with an early Joe Cowie try after some excellent off-loading.

But Gateshead had one or two very quick backs who caused the home side problems all game and scored a trio of quick tries to go 19-5 up.

However, further tries from captain Jacob Feeney and Arron Norman kept Sunderland in it, turning round at half time 19-15 down.

One further try each in the second half, with Feeney getting his second for Sunderland, left Gateshead with a narrow win. 

Houghton exacted revenge on Sunderland U13s with a comprehensive win at The Limes.

In a tightly contested first half, Houghton, who had lost earlier in the season to Sunderland, stormed 15-5 up, Zak Kennedy with the sole try for the home side.

In the second half, Vincent Hessel and Josh Jobling both scored for Sunderland, but Houghton’s clinical backs ran in five tries as they finished 45-15 winners.

Sunderland’s first XV return to Durham/Northumberland Two action at home to promotion-chasing Whitley Bay Rockcliff on Saturday.

Despite an encouraging performance in losing by a single score to second-placed Ponteland, the Ashbrooke men are still looking to claim a league win for the first time this year.

Now securely sat in seventh place in the table, on 55 points, promotion for the young team now remains a goal for next season, but the hope is that this weekend’s match can provide a platform to kick on.

The women’s XV – the Flames – are away to Manchester Ladies on Sunday hoping to secure a double over them in North Division Two.

The Flames, who last week secured a sponsorship deal with Sunderland’s Nandos, have four away games in four weeks.

Selection hinges on injuries, following the loss of influential back row forward Saskia Ryan-Munden to a neck injury which caused the abandonment of last weekend’s match.

Chairman Paul Geehan said, “The league position of the Flames can improve, but their main aim is to encourage more women and girls to start playing rugby.”

The development of the women’s game will see the Flames field two teams next season, while scouring the city for players at U13, U15 and U18 levels.

* Sunderland RFC coaches Stuart Hutchinson and John Howe were recognised at the Durham RFU volunteer awards ahead of England U20s match with Italy U20s last week at Darlington Mowden Park.

The two, who coach the U16s and U13s respectively, have been involved with their teams since they were under-7s and volunteer in various capacities.