Rugby: Sunderland prepare for tough challenge away to unbeaten leaders

Sunderland (white shirt) battle in last weeks defeat to Whitley Bay Rockcliff at Ashbrooke. Picture by Tim Richardson.
Sunderland (white shirt) battle in last weeks defeat to Whitley Bay Rockcliff at Ashbrooke. Picture by Tim Richardson.
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Sunderland RFC face a daunting away trip to unbeaten league leaders Acklam in Durham/Northumberland Two on Saturday.

The Middlesbrough-based club, who have competed in the tough Yorkshire Leagues in recent seasons, are flying high and take on an Ashbrooke team with four defeats behind them – three away from home.

Despite Sunderland’s sluggish start, club officials said they were “looking forward” to the trip and the chance to test their young team against the division’s table toppers.

Meanwhile the women’s team, Sunderland Flames, have a week off from league action in Women’s North Division Two, looking to bolster playing numbers with a recruitment drive aimed at mothers and daughters.

Sunderland chairman, and Flames’ coach, Paul Geehan said: “We are looking to recruit women and girls with sessions that are aimed at rugby fitness for mothers and daughters.

“The nights are Tuesday and Thursday for women from 6.30pm to 8pm and girls from Y6 to Y11 on Thursday. We are still waiting to finalise times for the rugby fit sessions.”

Continuing their strong start to the season, Sunderland Under-14s withheld a late rally from Darlington Mowden Park to claim a 32-22 win.

The visitors went 5-0 down in the opening 10 minutes, but battled back spearheaded by their forwards and hard carrying front row of James Docherty, David Matlock and Ethan Ellis.

Full-back Vincent Hessel and centre Zak Kennedy ran the hosts ragged with their rangy, direct attacking play.

Hessel claimed the Ashbrooke youngsters’ first score, before Kennedy bagged the first try of his hat-trick, cutting in and rounding the winger before adding a second to lead 15-5.

With half-backs Tom Howe and James Marshall orchestrating play, centre Chris Rochelle continued to cross the gain line to keep the visitors on the front foot.

Barrelling in from the left wing, Hessel beat three players to touch down to extend Sunderland’s lead.

Rochelle added a fifth try, latching on to a sweet pass from Marshall to score to the left of the uprights, converting his own score.

On the wings, Farrel Parkin and Dinoshan Ratneswaran stemmed the hosts’ attacks with their excellent defence as Sunderland chalked up a 27-5 lead.

However, Mowden Park weren’t finished and launched a determined comeback, snatching three quick tries as forwards and backs linked well, and the visitors flagged, to get back to within five points.

With the last play of the game, Sunderland opted not to kick to touch and Howe fed Kennedy, who claimed the decisive score in the left corner after rounding the home backline.

Sunderland Under-13s travelled to Redcar with just 12 players for the first real game of the season, but they returned with a comprehensive 70-15 victory.

The Ashbroooke youngsters completely dominated the first half, spreading the ball wide to the wings and tries followed from both Kai Haikney and Daniel Wynn.

Redcar came back into the game in the second half and it was clear that Sunderland were starting to tire.

However, the Wearsiders took control late on, with both Haikney and Kyle Tyrens running in late tries to clinch a convincing win.

Any youngsters in Years 7, 8 and 9 interested in playing rugby at Sunderland should contact John on 07745 846385 for more information.

Sunderland play host to some of the area’s schoolboy rugby talent as part of Durham County’s Developing Programme (DPP) on Wednesday night at Ashbrooke.

The DPP, run in conjunction with Newcastle Falcons, aims to unearth the next generation of professional players and starts at U13 level.

The U14 North squad – made up of Sunderland, Blaydon, Ryton, Gateshead, Westoe and Houghton -– will be put through their paces at Ashbrooke.

The host club has seven players in contention from St Aidan’s RC School, Farringdon, Southmoor and Red House.