Rugby: Sunderland look to continue feelgood factor against Bishop Auckland

Sunderland (red/yellow/black) attack against Newton Aycliffe at Ashbrooke last weekend. Picture by Kevin Brady
Sunderland (red/yellow/black) attack against Newton Aycliffe at Ashbrooke last weekend. Picture by Kevin Brady

Sunderland aim to build on the feelgood factor around the club as they plot their run-in until the end of the season.

The first XV welcome back Dan Gray into their matchday squad at second row, with lock Luke Victory unavailable for Saturday’s away trip to Bishop Auckland (3pm kick-off) in Durham/Northumberland Division Two.

Chairman Paul Geehan admitted that the team took no pleasure from their 120-0 home win over struggling Newton Aycliffe last week, which saw three players claim individual hat-tricks.

But he pointed to the buoyant mood at Ashbrooke, which sees the club aim to put out three senior sides at the weekend.

“Not many teams are able to do that at the moment, put out three sides, that’s the positive side of what we are doing at the moment,” he said.

“The first team will be unchanged from last week, unless there are any injuries picked up in training.

“We are getting good numbers down to training and, at the moment, the lads are on a high – although they didn’t like doing it, they were very respectful towards Newton Aycliffe on the day, and there has been a feeling this was going to happen for a while.

“Something clicked: the forwards dominated, providing the right platform for our backs, who were just too quick for Aycliffe.

“Things are really positive at the moment.”

With a Durham County Cup semi-final in the pipeline against Sedgefield, at the beginning of next month, Sunderland are putting a good run of form together at the right time.

Lying in eighth place in the table, they are level on points with Bishop Auckland with a game in hand.

Meanwhile, Sunderland Flames are still waiting to see hear whether they will have to play their cancelled Championship North 2 fixture to Sefton.

The Ashbrooke women’s team lie in third place, with Barnsley Ladies and Birkenhead fighting it out for the title.

Several of the Flames are in contention to represent Durham in their clash with Eastern Counties Women at Billingham on Friday night.