Sunderland outgunned Sedgefield 34-17 in Durham/Northumberland Division Two on the day the club paid respects to Ashbrooke legend Tommy Harrison.
A large crowd enjoyed a veterans game prior and observed a minute’s silence before kick-off, and stayed as Tommy’s ashes were scattered on the pitch after the game.
Sunderland’s coaching staff impressed the need to start strong, make first up tackles, and exert more control to manage the game and conditions, unlike the previous week’s poor first-half performance at Ashington.
Sunderland pressed hard in the opening minutes, but Sedgefield opened the scoring on 10 minutes with a converted try out wide.
On 19 minutes, the hosts got on the scoresheet as Leon Ryan slotted over the first of four penalties.
Man of the match Dom Younger made his presence known from first to last, carrying the ball well in attack, getting over the gain line to keep Sunderland on the front foot and making a string of impressive tackles in defence.
Sunderland went 9-7 up with a try from Ben Hodgson, who scored in the corner and Sunderland worked the phases to get the ball wide, after good work from Brad Fish and Marc Edmundson.
Sunderland’s line-out was well executed, with Pete Harrison’s accurate throwing finding Andy Wordsworth with great reliability, giving a good platform to build on.
Two more Ryan penalties saw the half end 17-7 in Sunderland’s favour.
At the break, Chris Geehan replaced Ryan Buckley at tighthead and Dan Gray replaced No 8 Craig Elstob.
Sedgefield started well, driving over a maul from five metres.
Dan Gray chased Fish’s restart and outjumped his opposite numbers to take the high ball then retain it in contact to set up a ruck.
The visitors were rocked by a sin-binning offence, for a daft deliberate knock-on, and Sunderland capitalised, with a maul from the line-out marshalled by Fish before Chris Geehan broke off to crash over the try line.
From a subsequent penalty, Pete Harrison ended up on his own line-out ball to score from the back of the maul, maintaining his scoring streak.
Aaron Stevenson drove the ball to the edge of the 22 as Sunderland maintained their dominance.
The clearance was recycled by Sedgefield but turned over for Sunderland to mount a counter-attack. Strong running from Younger saw Jack Hope released to break a tackle and score under posts, with Ryan converting.
Sedgefield had the last word, notching a third try but Sunderland finished good winners.