SUNDERLAND put down a marker on Saturday as they upset the league leaders and previously unbeaten Whitley Bay with a fine performance.
Despite some late jitters, four tries secured both victory an the try-scoring bonus point.
Sunderland got off to a flying start with the pack immediately piling on the pressure.
Chris Geehan was the beneficiary of the pack powering towards the visitors’ line with a driving mall to open the scoring.
The much-vaunted Whitley Bay backline struck back with a well-worked try under the posts to take the lead – but for the rest opf the half, it was one-way traffic.
John Drummond wriggled his way over for Sunderland’s second try before man-of-the-match Geehan popped up on the left wing to finish a well-worked backs move in the left corner which saw Sunderland finish the half 17-7 ahead.
The second half proved a much tighter affair.
Whitley Bay took the game to Sunderland but the home backline put in a great defensive effort against a side that has scored points for fun this season.
Sunderland then seemed to go into self destruct mode, with Tom Townend sent to the sin bin for reacting to one of a number of stamps from Whitley Bay players.
With Sunderland a player down, a try down the right wing brought Bay to within touching distance while a further penalty closed the gap to two points.
Sunderland needed to show character and wave after wave of Whitley bay attack was repelled until the home side cleared their lines.
With the clock ticking down, a Sunderland penalty was kicked to the corner and a well-taken line-out was taken and driven over the line to allow Martin Watt to clinch the bonus point.
Despite their win, a comprehensive victory for Ryton saw Sunderland slip to third in the league on the same points as Ryton but with an inferior points difference.
Both Sunderland and Ryton have a game in hand over Whitley Bay and with three points separating the top three, things are hotting up at the top on Durham and Northumberland Division Two.