Rugby: Gallant Sunderland push table-toppers Acklam all the way in narrow defeat

Seaham (red shirts) battle in vain against South Shields in Saturday's crushing Division Three defeat. Picture by Tim Richardson.
Seaham (red shirts) battle in vain against South Shields in Saturday's crushing Division Three defeat. Picture by Tim Richardson.
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Sunderland pushed top-of-the-table Acklam hard in a tight Durham/Northumberland Division Two battle on Saturday.

The Teessiders were fortunate to edge home 20-19 to hand the Ashbrooke side their fifth defeat out of five, although they picked up a losing bonus point. That point kept them off the bottom of the table, a point ahead of Winlaton Vulcans.

Sunderland prepared for a physical game, but they were surprised to see Acklam wanting to play running rugby.

Although the home side took the lead, Sunderland replied with a solo effort by Marc Edmundson.

Sunderland’s forwards dominated the scrums and secured good ball for their backs, though Acklam replied with two tries in quick successuion, with some crucial tackles missed. Edmundson struck again to keep Sunderland in the game at half-time.

The game was nip and tuck and Sunderland impressively dominated territory in the second half and a Luke Victory try in the corner saw Sunderland draw level at 17-17.

Leon Ryan stepped up on the far touchline and slotted the conversion over, giving the Wearsiders a two-point advantage.

Acklam hit back with a penalty, after turning down scrum options because of Sunderland’s dominance.

A point behind, Sunderland laid siege to Acklam in their 22 in the closing stages, but the hosts held out.

Sunderland’s gallant players were applauded and praised by the Acklam supporters who realised their team were very lucky to get the win.

Meanwhile, Sunderland’s second XV scrapped hard to secure an 11-8 victory at home to Whitley Bay Rockcliff’s seconds.

Sunderland edged this game as Danny Hinder notched an early penalty and touched down following a good team move after 25 minutes.

Hinder slotted another penalty and Rockcliff kicked one just before half-time as the score reached 11-3 at the interval.

The visitors rang the changes at the break and the second half was a much more even affair. Olly Cook made some really good carries and big defensive hits, while Scott Hughes looked dangerous every time he got the ball.

Rockcliff dominated the last 15 minutes, but Sunderland, facing eight five-metre scrums, held out, spearheaded by hooker Daryl Rush, who was excellent in those late scrums to keep the visitors at bay.

Rockcliff scored a try, with just 30 seconds left, when their scrum-half picked up and dummied from the base of the scrum after 10 minutes of solid pressure on the home line. They missed the conversion, though, and the winning margin was three points.