Women’s rugby: Sunderland Flames end Barnsley’s three-year unbeaten record in dramatic finale

Sunderland Flames  (red/yellow/black) take on Birkenhead Panthers earlier this season.
Sunderland Flames (red/yellow/black) take on Birkenhead Panthers earlier this season.

Sunderland Flames extinguished another unbeaten record as a last-kick-of-the-game secured a dramatic 24-22 triumph over leaders Barnsley Ladies.

It was a first defeat in three seasons for the Yorkshire side in the Women’s Championship North Two.

Third-placed Sunderland opened the scoring as the forwards put the visitors on the back foot before Julie Noble set Clarissa Murphy up to score under the posts, with Tara Breslin converting.

Breslin extended the lead to 14-0 with a converted try in the right corner after quick play in the back line saw Kirsty Paterson break through before offloading.

Barnsley used simple rugby to gain an overload out wide, scoring in the corner to cut the deficit to 14-7.

Sunderland came back with Breslin’s penalty in front of the posts, but the visitors retaliated with a converted try to trail 17-14 at the break.

Barnsley piled on the pressure in the second half, and they took the lead for the first time with a penalty and an unconverted try to go 22-17 up, with just five minutes to play.

Determined to get the result they deserved, Sunderland attacked from the kick-off and quick ball out wide saw Paterson score in the corner.

It meant a tricky kick for Breslin, but she converted to see Sunderland end the match two points to the good.

Flames coach David Addison said: “It was an extremely enjoyable game to watch.

“We demonstrated how capable we are as a team when we turn up and play our game.

“As a coaching team, we have a lot to be proud of, heading into the end of the season.

“We have beaten two unbeaten teams and we are one game away from concluding our highest ever league position finish.”

Flames’ last game is a still-to-be-rearranged clash with Sefton.

* Ninth-placed Sunderland host undefeated Durham/Northumberland Division Two leaders Acklam at Ashbrooke in a daunting fixture on Saturday.

The Ashbrooke first XV, with two games in hand on teams around them, continue to blood new players as they face the league’s form side.

Following back to back defeats, Sunderland aim to put the form book to one side against an Acklam team who have notched 21 wins out of 21 so far in the league, with 1,031 points scored and just 282 conceded.

The match will surely test the depth of the home squad, and a spokesman said: “It is highly encouraging to see our player pathway from junior to senior rugby come to fruition and, particularly see so many lining up to play senior rugby on a Saturday is a testimony to all the things we are doing right at the club.”