Sunderland maintained their momentum in Durham and Northumberland Two as they clinched back-to-back home wins with a 29-24 victory over Ashington.
The visitors could not find an answer to Sunderland’s inventive back play, which lifted the home side into seventh.
The home side ignored the referee’s pre-match warnings regarding offside and were duly punished on four minutes, the penalty giving Ashington the early lead.
Sunderland’s first score came via a Leon Ryan penalty on seven minutes but they failed to capitalise on the lion’s share of possession.
Harry Connell was given ball in space on right wing, and opted to chip ball ahead but failed to beat his man to ground it, and when he made a later break he was bundled into touch just before the try-line.
A Michael Heffernan penalty found touch five metres out from Ashington’s try line. From the maul, Sunderland edged forward. Chris Geehan found himself with the ball at his feet and picked up to place it over the line for Sunderland’s first try. The conversion from Ryan took the score to 10-3.
Sunderland’s flankers Joe Arrowsmith and Dan Gray were outstanding throughout the game, working tirelessly to make hard yards.
The unfortunate Heffernan was unable to continue after sustaining a bicep injury. As he was being treated, Ashington broke through to score out wide and the conversion made it a 10-10 stalemate at half-time.
A Ben Hutchinson penalty on 44 minutes found touch down the left wing. From the lineout, Sunderland’s pack recycled the ball well and mauled over the try line for Andy Wordsworth to score. Ryan despatched the conversion to extend the lead.
As Ashington broke, Colin Wallace hit the ball carrier hard and ripped the ball from him, before breaking from halfway and skittling opposition out of the way as he charged upfield. Tackled 10 metres out, he popped a great offload to Kieron Hanlon who passed to Dean Edmundson to score Sunderland’s third try.
Ashington came back on 48 minutes to take the score to 22-17 as tackles were missed in Sunderland’s ranks.
To cap an eventful 10 minutes, Edmundson reacted quickest to gather a charged down Ashington kick, and sprinted from just outside the 10-metre line. He was tackled just short of the try-line but slipped free and stepped back inside to score under posts. Ryan’s conversion made it 29-17.
Ashington continued to press and narrowly missed a try out wide as a player set foot in touch in the act of grounding the ball, but then did pull the score back to 29-24 with five minutes play.
From the restart, Sunderland won the ball back and with time up, the final kick of the game fell to the home side, but they narrowly missed a penalty.
With no first team game next week, Sunderland hope the growing injury list will shorten before the next league game.
The second team travelled to Ashington to face their second string.
With three junior colts in a team that had suffered cry-offs on match day morning, the scale of the challenge was too much for the visiting side who lost 55-15.
Second row James Fraser made a good impression, propping against a more experienced pack, and Anth Dodds carried well.
Man-of-the-match junior colt Shumi marked his senior debut with a try and his colts’ team-mate John Turner bagged a brace.