SUNDERLAND bounced back from the previous week’s disappointment with a vitally important 27-20 win over second-placed Ryton in Durham and Northumberland Division One on Saturday.
In a much-improved display, Tom Townend was the star of the show, bagging all Sunderland’s points with two tries, a conversion and five penalties.
Sunderland started the game fired up and, from the off, their pack made their presence felt as they dominated possession with Ryton struggling to get their hands on the ball.
The first 20 minutes were played almost exclusively in the Ryton half, but the visitors’ defence held firm and Sunderland could not find a way to unlock the Ryton defence.
Ryton, though, had the opportunity to open the scoring with a penalty just inside the Sunderland half, but it fell just short.
Sunderland then opened the scoring when Townend produced a bit of magic to score his first try of the day.
Playing out of position at fly-half, Townend received the ball just inside the Ryton half and, spotting space behind the Ryton line, he put in a deft chip over the advancing defence.
Townend raced after his own kick, collecting on the bounce and rounding the covering defenders to score under the posts.
Somehow, though, he managed to miss the conversion from in front of the posts.
From the restart, Sunderland continued to apply the pressure and strong carries from the back row of Jake Belfield, Martin Watt and Joe Arrowsmith forced Ryton to concede a number of penalties.
After his early miss, Townend was flawless with the boot from here on in and kicked two penalties to extend Sunderland’s advantage to 11-0.
That lead was extended further with Townend’s second try of the day.
Again the Sunderland forwards put their opponents under pressure and, following a number of good phases, the ball was fed along the backline with some good handling creating space for Townend to crash over just to the right of the posts. Townend made no mistake with the conversion this time to give Sunderland a 18-0 lead.
As the clock ticked down to half-time, Ryton asserted themselves for the first time as a series of penalties allowed them the opportunity of a line-out in the Sunderland 22.
When the ball was spread wide, Dom Arkley found himself on the wrong side of a ruck and was given 10 minutes in the sin bin for slowing down the ball.
Ryton declined the kick at goal and ran the ball. After being repelled on the line through a series of drives, the ball was then spread wide and, with Sunderland a man short, there were always going to be gaps and Ryton took advantage to peg Sunderland back with the last play of the half. The conversion made the half-time score 18-7.
The second half proved another frustrating affair for the home side as once again they failed to get going.
Ryton upped their game and came back with an aggression that had been missing from their game in the first half – though their cause was once again aided by poor Sunderland discipline.
Ryton scored their second try after some weak tackling, and the conversion narrowed the gap to four points.
Townend kicked a penalty from a rare Sunderland foray into Ryton territory, but once again poor discipline allowed the visitors a further two kicks at goal which were duly converted to bring them back to within a point.
With 15 minutes to go, Sunderland got their act together. A fourth Townend penalty settled the nerves, and then a fifth left Ryton needing a try to draw the game.
Try as they might, Ryton could not get the try they needed and Sunderland closed out the game to take four points – with Ryton only having a losing bonus point to show for their efforts.
It proved to be a good day all round for Sunderland, with the seconds winning at Darlington.
Despite only having 13 players due to late cry-offs, they were kindly loaned two players by the home side.
Tries from Adam Reay, Michael Brace, Simon Coleman and a try each from the two loaned players, as well as a penalty and a conversion from Danny Hinder, gave Sunderland a 30-14 win.
The thirds narrowly overcame Ryton thirds 15-14. Sunderland’s points came through tries for Andy Turnbull and Jamie Cowans, with John Grainger adding a penalty and a conversion.