Sunderland edged out in tight battle at Sedgefield

Sunderland's second XV (red/yellow) attack against Winlaton Vulcans at Ashbrooke on Saturday. Picture by Tim Richardson
Sunderland's second XV (red/yellow) attack against Winlaton Vulcans at Ashbrooke on Saturday. Picture by Tim Richardson
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Rugby Union

Sunderland were edged out 33-27 on their trip to Sedgefield in Durham and Northumberland Two.

The teams had a late reshuffle due to unforseen injuries. Junior Colt flanker Reece Thompson made an unexpected starting debut on the right wing, while flanker Chris Little stepped in at inside centre.

Junior colt Dean Edmundson moved to stand off, James Fraser and James Cogdon added grunt to the bench, while another flanker, Gerrard Harford, provided cover for backs.

As Sedgefield surged forward with support a series of missed tackles saw them take an early lead barely two minutes in.

Sunderland’s open play stuttered throughout the game, and some uncharacteristic errors at restarts gave away possession. Quicker ball would have generated more momentum and a little more guile may have exploited a series of clear attacking overlaps.

On 16 minutes, from a rolling maul, Kieron Hanlon worked hard to ground the ball just wide of the right upright. The missed conversion took the score to 7-5.

Sunderland began to gather themselves and took the lead on 21 minutes as young Edmundson took a pass following a few rucks, and with some skill chipped the ball into the dead ball area to sprint through and ground for a good individual try, converted by Leon Ryan.

Jack Hope, returning from injury, broke through midfield and as he attacked down left wing lost the ball forward in the tackle only metres from the try line.

A further Ryan penalty on 30 minutes took score to 15-7 in Sunderland’s favour.

Joe Arrowsmith was replaced by Harford after taking a heavy knock to the shoulder, but the Ashbrooke men could not hold their shape.

On 38 minutes, Sedgefield worked their phases to the left of the posts and formed an overlap out wide right. More missed tackles allowed Sedgefield to score, taking the half-time score to 14-15.

James Fraser came in for Chris Geehan who sustained a knock to the ribs, his introduction pushing Hooker Pete Harrison to loose head prop.

Within two minutes of the half kicking off, Sedgefield scored again as Sunderland failed to make their tackles.

A carbon copy score saw Edmundson chip and chase to score his second of the day, taking the lead at 22-21 with 48 minutes played.

Andy Wordsworth’s normally cool demeanour was shattered as he made a series of high tackles gaining a spell in the sin bin for his efforts.

A few tempers boiled over as a high tackle-come-choke hold ushered Reece Thompson into touch. The situation was calmed by Luke Victory who had fought back from injury to take to the field and carried well throughout.

Sedgefield edged back in front on 54 minutes, offloading well to score out wide.

Watt was reintroduced with Arrowsmith 20 minutes into the half as Wordsworth’s time in the bin came to an end, but Harford stayed on in the back row as blind side flanker Dan Gray had rolled his ankle and was unable to play on.

The injured Geehan had to retake to the field as Pete Harrison had a head injury checked out.

James Fraser made hard yards with a series of carries and Watt linked well with Scott Hughes attacking down the five-metre channel with multiple deft passes and follow-up support between the pair.

On 70 minutes, Watt secured a try-scoring bonus point and continued his personal scoring streak, benefitting from the final pass to score in right corner after the pack worked a few phases. The missed conversion left the score at 28-27 in favour of the home side.

Pete Harrison returned to the fray, but Sunderland could not muster a try or penalty or retain the ball well enough.

On 79 minutes, Sedgefield attacked to their right. Scott Hughes made some great tackles thwarting the home forwards as they marauded down the hill into the corner, but the good work was undone as the referee awarded a try to Sedgefield when it appeared the ball was clearly dropped and not grounded.

The final act of the game saw the conversion kick rebound off the upright.

Sunderland Seconds had to forfeit their home cup game against Winlaton Vulcans as they could but field a full front row.

A friendly fixture was played after Vulcans loaned two props, but Sunderland ran out narrow losers. Young Colt Shumi is attracting the attention of selectors bagging a brace from wing, his third try in two games.