Ponteland 29 Sunderland 15 Durham and Northumberland Division One
PONTELAND extended their unbeaten run to five matches with a heroic second-half performance.
Despite losing key men in stand-in skipper Richard Moller and centre Jake White to injury in a brutal first half, the replacements and their 13 team-mates more than stood up to be counted in a second half in which the Wearsiders barely ventured into the Pont half.
The home side took the lead within the first five minutes. Outside-centre Pete Burns easily jetted through the Sunderland defence before a maul was formed and driven over, with Craig Robinson getting the final touch on the ball as it was put down behind the line. Mike Mullins converted.
Minutes later though, Pont were on the back-foot and were thankful to winger Pete Britland for two excellent last-ditch tackles to save Sunderland from levelling up the scores.
The pressure told when the visiting number 14 drifted in off his wing and was allowed to skip through a couple of poor tackles to race away and score under the posts. The kick was converted and Moller had to limp off with an ankle injury in the aftermath.
But Ponteland were soon back in front after Jonathan Livingstone-Evans charged down a kick and picked up the ball to touch down behind the line.
Then the hosts scored their third try following an excellent break forward from Burns. Good hands by Mullins and Will Newbigin saw Britland cap a fine first-half display with a try in the corner and Mullins successfully kicked an impressive conversion to make it 19-7.
Burns then became the villain as a high tackle and dissent saw him receive a yellow card with five minutes to go in the first half. Sunderland converted the penalty and then scored another quick breakaway try before half-time to reduce the gap to four points.
The hosts got off to a perfect start in the second half, with Mullins slotting home a penalty after four minutes, and then piled the pressure on their tiring visitors with some outstanding defensive work.
The coaching manual says to defend from the front and this was certainly true of Pont, who put in tackle after tackle on the Wearside outfit to prevent them making any ground, pinning them in their defensive 22. And they were rewarded for their efforts midway through proceedings with their fourth try of the match.
Mullins ended up being the filling of a Sunderland prop forward sandwich but the ball fell kindly to Chris Freer in the tackle, who was able to take it forward and Robinson once again took the ball over for his second try of the match.
In truth though, there were 15 heroes out on the field for Pont with every single player playing his part in a victory that had looked difficult at half-time. Even the unlikely figure of Mark Kelly gave his comrades a lesson in line-out jumping as he stepped in towards the end of the game as the injury crisis deepened with Burns hobbling off.
Ponteland are now fourth from bottom in the table and they look set to avoid the drop.