Sunderland 27 Ponteland 25
Durham & Northumberland League, Division One
AN inspired second half comeback was not enough for Ponteland as they went down by the extremely narrow margin of two points at Ashbrooke, writes Chris Morgan.
After an enforced eight week break due to the cold snap, Pont found the opening exchanges tough as Sunderland took advantage of their rustiness to score two first half tries.
Unusually for the visitors, so often strong up front, it was in the forwards where the home side dominated in a scrappy first 40 minutes.
They did manage to sneak their noses in front after six minutes through a Will Newbigin penalty, but their joy was short lived as Sunderland went ahead as their winger touched down in the corner, with their pressure up front paying off.
Fifteen minutes later, the Wearside outfit increased their advantage as the pack’s extra weight proved too much for Ponteland again and the home forwards bundled the ball over the line for a 10-3 lead at half time.
Pont could think themselves fortunate that the Sunderland kicker had seemingly left his boots at home as three missed kicks meant that they were still in the game with just a seven point deficit to overturn in the second half.
This task became more difficult when Sunderland sent over a penalty just five minutes in but Newbigin’s reply 11 minutes later meant the game was still alive.
The away side’s backs started to put some decent moves together, however their efforts to get back into the match were thwarted when Sunderland sent over their third try of the match.
The tackling was far too soft and the home centre was able to score for what would appear to be an unassailable 20-6 lead.
But Ponteland rallied with Peter Maughan the catalyst for the comeback. The scrum half, who had enjoyed a good game, took the ball from the breakdown and a quick dummy saw him speed past the Sunderland forwards and score in the corner – although Newbigin missed the conversion.
Ponteland’s forwards then turned the tables on their counterparts and took the ball forward with style before their momentum paid off for a Robinson try. Newbigin’s successful conversion meant that suddenly the deficit was just two points as Sunderland led 20-18 with ten minutes remaining.
The match swung again when the Pont backs passed the ball along the line, but the alert Sunderland centre nicked in to steal the ball by the tips of his fingers and run under the posts to score the winning try.
Consolation and a bonus point for Ponteland did follow in the form of Stuart Weir, with the big second row showing a clean pair of heels to the Sunderland team and scoring under the posts.
It was ultimately in vein though as despite Newbigin’s conversion, the scoreline finished at 27-25 as a frenetic second half came to a close with Ponteland suffering another defeat.
Despite the result, the side can take credit from this performance. Some of their rugby in the final thirty minutes was amongst the best they have played this season. Nevertheless, the side continue to give their opponents leads in matches which is never the ideal formula for success in any rugby match.