SUNDERLAND only had themselves to blame as they twice let a lead slip to go down narrowly to a well-organised Medicals side, with only a losing bonus point as consolation.
In an open and entertaining game that was always in the balance, the home side ran out narrow 24-20 winners.
An early try for both sides set the tone for the game.
Medicals scored from a quick tap and go penalty in the Sunderland 22, with their number eight evading two tacklers before scoring.
However, Sunderland scrum-half Mark Henry latched on to a deft Sam Jordan grubber kick to level the scores 10 minutes in.
Sunderland edged into the lead through a Greg Littlewood penalty before both teams again traded tries.
Tom Townend scored first for Sunderland, ghosting through a gap in the Medicals’ defence to score under the posts.
Littlewood added the conversion before Medicals hit back with their second try of the day to make the score 15-10 to Sunderland.
Medicals had the chance to reduce the deficit with the last kick of the half through a penalty 30 metres out.
The penalty came off the post, but instead of clearing their lines, Sunderland launched an ambitious counter-attack – which proved costly.
After almost turning the ball over on the edge of their own 22, Sunderland put themselves under massive pressure.
Sunderland’s attempted clearance kick was charged down, which allowed Medicals to pounce on the loose ball and score an easy try. The successful conversion meant the sides turned around with Medicals in a slender 17-15 lead.
The second half continued in much the same pattern as the first, with both sides playing some good rugby without really threatening.
Sunderland gave a debut to Joe Arrowsmith, who replaced Andy Black with 20 minutes left in the game.
And the youngster made an instant impact, getting his hands on the ball at the base of a Sunderland driving maul to touch down and give Sunderland the lead going into the closing stages.
However, it was not to be for Sunderland, as some sloppy defending shortly afterwards saw Medicals carve open the Sunderland defence and cross for a bonus point try which would prove to be the decisive score.
* Sunderland seconds and thirds both fared better against opposition from Medicals.
The second team were 10-0 down with less than 10 minutes played, but managed to turn the score around to run out 25-20 winners.
Man-of-the-match Michael Brace scored one try, with Sunderland’s other points coming through tries from James Tolley, Andy Mackie and Sam Jermey.
The third team won 20-8, with the points coming from a Graeme Duff try as well as a penalty try and 10 points from the boot of John Grainger.