SUNDERLAND got off to the best possible start in 2012 with a seven-try demolition of Novocastrians earning them a full five points.
Sunderland hardly looked as if they had been inactive for four weeks as they put in a clinical team display.
The first half saw Sunderland playing into a strong headwind, but the pack showed control and discipline to dominate possession in the opening phases.
Despite making their way patiently into the Novos’ 22, Sunderland conceded a penalty and the home side was able to open the scoring with a well-worked backs’ move.
However, Sunderland bounced back to level the scores. Good work from the pack opened up space down the right wing for Greg Littlewood and Joe Arrowsmith to feed the ball out wide to Sam Jordan, who finished off a great move in the the corner.
Sunderland took the lead midway through the first half.
With a penalty in front of the posts, captain Martin Watt opted for the scrum.
However, a slip in the front row meant Sunderland had to move the ball and Novos were able to pinch it and clear their lines.
With the danger seemingly over, Novos’ defence went to sleep and the ball was passed through a number of Sunderland hands before Greg Littlewood beat the last defender to score in the corner.
Novos came back strongly and a line-out five metres out was stopped by Sunderland.
However, they failed to defend the fringes, allowing the Novos number seven to pick and drive through the middle of the ruck and score what was, ultimately, a soft try. A great conversion from out wide gave Novos a 12-10 lead.
Sunderland again bounced back through their totally dominant pack and their pressure told when Novos conceded a penalty five metres out.
A quick tap from second row Peter Carter caught the home defence napping and he fed Tom Townend, who powered over to score the final points of the first half.
Despite dominating, Sunderland turned around at half-time with a slender 15-12 lead.
However, in the second half they got off to a great start with a try from a well-worked lineout move.
Taking advantage of the wind, Littlewood kicked a penalty deep into the Novos’ 22.
Ross Finch took the lineout and Pete Harrison was the beneficiary of a tremendous drive from the Sunderland pack as he grounded the ball for the first of his two tries and secure a bonus point for Sunderland.
Ross Finch then extended the Sunderland lead with another lineout catch and drive, Greg Littlewood adding the conversion.
From this point, Sunderland were never in any danger of giving up their lead and Harrison confirmed that with his second try of the day.
A barnstorming run by Richard Arrowsmith took Sunderland to within inches of the line and Harrison had the simplest of tasks to dot the ball down for the try. Littlewood again added the extra two points.
Jordan finished things off on a high for Sunderland.
Some great handling and recycling saw them go through a number of phases before the ball was spun out to the right wing for Jordan to cross for his second try of the day.
H The seconds and thirds both faced opposition from Novos, but neither side could emulate the first team.
The second team lost 27-21, with their points coming through a try for Andy Mackie and two for Terry Haley, while the thirds lost 30-10, Wallace and Hogg the Sunderland points scorers.