SUNDERLAND finally got their season up and running with a well-deserved home Durham and Northumberland Division One victory over Ponteland.
A brace of tries from Martin Watt along with a try and two penalties from Sean Bellon were enough to see Sunderland home 21-12.
With perfect conditions for running rugby, Ponteland looked to spread the ball wide right from the off.
So far this season Sunderland have proved vulnerable when teams play wide, but their hard work in training appeared to have finally paid off as their defence stood solid and all Ponteland’s early efforts were rebuffed.
Sunderland opted to play a much tighter game early on and it was from a catch and drive lineout that they scored the opening points of the day.
John Drummond took the lineout ball and was driven 15 metres by the Sunderland pack.
As the Ponteland defence focused on the fact that Sam Vaughan had moved off his wing and into centre field, Matt Francis broke down the blind side and fed Martin Watt, who was in support to crash over for the first try of the day.
Sunderland extended their lead with a Bellon penalty shortly afterwards, but as is so often the case, went to sleep from the restart, resulting in Ponteland’s first try of the day.
They were awarded a penalty, which was kicked to the corner. From the resulting lineout, Ponteland mauled their way over the line to reduce Sunderland’s lead to 8-5.
It was Martin Watt who once again provided the threat with a second try very similar to the first.
Once again, Ponteland’s blindside defence went walkabouts and Watt was able to pick from a ruck close to the Ponteland line and dive over in the corner to give Sunderland a 13-5 half-time lead.
Sunderland added another Bellon penalty to extend their lead early in the first half before Bellon added Sunderland’s third and final try to close out the game.
Having won a penalty wide on the left just inside the Ponteland 22, Sunderland caught out Ponteland by taking a quick tap and spread the ball the width of the pitch to Dan Abraham, who drew the last Ponteland defender and passed to Bellon, who raced in at the corner.
There was still time for one more Ponteland score as Sunderland tired in the swealtering heat, but it was too little, too late for Ponteland and Sunderland held on for their first win of the season.
H Sunderland seconds lost out 31-7 Consett II.
Sunderland’s points came through a Sam Jermy try and a Danny Hinder conversion.
The thirds made it two wins for Sunderland against Ponteland on the day.
With Ponteland III only arriving with nine players, Sunderland had to lend them a number of players so the match could go ahead.
Sunderland welcomed university students Gary Roberts and Andrew Reynoldson to the club with a run-out for the thirds and Reynoldson proved to be a try scoring machine, bagging five.
Sunderland’s other points came from the boot of John Grainger, with three conversions and a penalty.