Sunderland Under-14s fell to a late winner as West Hartlepool took the spoils 19-12 in a nervy Durham County Cup semi-final.
A try from winger Zak Kennedy put the Ashbrooke youngsters 5-0 up early on, but West hit back moments after fly-half Chris Rochelle was sin-binned for a high tackle, to snatch a 7-5 lead with a converted try.
The match see-sawed as both sides held firm.
Sunderland’s forwards, led by Jai Swalwell and Jack Howell, edged the tight encounters, as West conceded a string of penalties for offside at the ruck.
Just after half-time, Kennedy claimed his second try, rounding the defence to touch down, converted by Rochelle for a 12-7 advantage.
However, West fought back through quick pick and goes, which put their strong runners on the front foot.
As Sunderland’s outstanding defence, marshalled by centres Vince Hessell and Josh Jobling, became stretched in the closing stages, West equalised with an unconverted try, taking the score to 12-12.
As the clock ticked down, West breached Sunderland’s defence again to score the decisive try, which was converted.
Hooker Alex Ryan snatched a ball against the head to keep possession for the visitors in the dying moments and, as West conceded yet another offside at the ruck, Sunderland had a chance to launch a final counter attack, only to fumble the pass on the final play.
* Sunderland Under-13s travelled to Hartlepool Rovers and in true spirit helped out the opposition out with players ... and themselves to a win.
Fine performances were put in by debutant Matthew Green, Jack Carr, Louis Jacques, Kyle Tyrens and Alexander Lamb.
Sunderland came away winners 65-5 in another good all-round team performance.