SUNDERLAND’S good run of form came crashing to a halt on Saturday as they struggled against a more determined Guisborough side.
A poor 20 minutes in the first half saw Sunderland concede three sloppy tries. And they did not really threaten the Guisborough line until it was too late as they went down 17-8.
Sunderland’s cause wasn’t helped by the loss of three of their most creative players with both Sean Bellon and Greg Littlewood unavailable and Tom Townend having to pull out on the morning of the game.
Sunderland were forced into a late reshuffle that saw number eight Martin Watt shifted to the centres and Andy Mackie replacing Watt at eight.
Even so, they made a promising start to the game – claiming their own kick off and quickly advancing into the Guisborough 22. But the tone for the day was set when Sunderland were penalised for holding on and Guisborough reacted quickly attacking from deep making good use of their big forward runners.
It wasn’t long before Guisborough opened the scoring with their forwards running hard and the ball being recycled quickly meant gaps opened in the Sunderland defence for the visitors’ centre to stroll through under the posts.
Sunderland pulled the score back to 7-3 through a Matt Francis penalty but with the lack of a cutting egde they failed to get any purposeful attacking moves going to pressure the Guisborough line.
Sloppy defence gifted Guisborough a second try before they scored the try of the day through a well-worked line-out move from 25 metres out. Sunderland’s lineout failed to react at the front of the line when a Guisborough runner took a pop from the front jumper to race away down the five-metre channel before passing to their hooker, who raced away to make the score 17-3.
Harsh words were had at half-time and Sunderland’s performance did pick up slightly in the second half but they never really looked like they were going to be able to claw their way back into the game – despite Guisborough being down to 14 men for the first ten minutes of the half.
Too many unforced errors and losing the ball in the tackle too often meant Sunderland were never able to provide the platform to get their backs into the game.
The most significant incident of the second half came when captain Martin Watt was forced from the field with a bang to the head suffered while making a last-ditch try-saving tackle.
The injury could see him miss the next few weeks, which would be a massive blow for Sunderland.
The home side had the final say when flanker Joe Arrowsmith, forced to play a large portion of the second half on the wing, darted down the blind side from a ruck and just managed to cross in the corner and ground the ball before being bundled into touch.
Matt Francis had a kick at goal from the left touchline to rescue a bonus point for Sunderland but his kick drifted agonisingly wide and Sunderland were left empty-handed.
Sunderland seconds also suffered defeat, losing 17-10 in a closely-fought match against a well-drilled Medicals second team.
There was better news for the third team, who consolidated their place at the top of the league with a 19-8 victory over second-placed Border Park.