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RUGBY REPORT | Sunderland 1st 0-36 Northumbria 4th

Sunderland University Mens Rugby endured a difficult afternoon against Northumbria 4’s, going down 36-0 on home soil.

Four first half tries saw Northumbria head into half time with a 22-0 lead, and despite plenty of endeavour from Sunderland, the victory was made certain in the second half, with two more converted scores for the visitors sending them home with maximum points.

Both sides had come into this game having secured walkover wins last week, with Sunderland taking the victory against Teesside, and Northumbria’s coming against Leeds Trinity, allowing for both sides to enjoy a first competitive game of the season.

The opening stages saw Northumbria dominate territory in the Sunderland 22, but the visitors were repelled on a number of occasions by unforgiving Sunderland defence. The Sunderland pack looked particularly strong and won the early battle of attrition, with loosehead prop Devrim Koca earning a number of penalties at scrum time for his side.

On 10 minutes, the early pressure from the visitors finally paid off. After Sunderland were twice walked back 10 metres by the referee for commenting on his decision to award Northumbria a penalty, Northumbria were able to work the ball wide to winger Louis Russell who was able to walk the ball in unchallenged on the wing.

The conversion was missed, but Northumbria doubled their advantage eight minutes later. Having got the shove on at scrum time, Sunderland failed to clear their lines deep in their defensive zone which led to Northumbria turning the ball over. With the ball worked wide, a gap appeared and inside centre Toby Wheatley went over to make the score 10-0, with the conversion again missed.

On 20 minutes, Wheatley had his second try of the game as Northumbria crashed over again. This time, a break from Ben Lumm down the left saw the ball recycled a number of times, and a neat pass from captain Sam Stanton allowed Wheatley to dot down for 15-0, with the extras again put wide.

Despite the scoreline, Sunderland had their moments in the first half. Rueben Orr controlled the attack well with his boot at fly half, and Sam Digman produced a number of monster carries into the opposition half, with the line-out in particular looking a strong asset moving forward.

Northumbria went into the break well in control of the half thanks to a fourth try on 37 minutes. A line break from flanker Louis Eleftheriou saw the ball offloaded to McGrath who was able to race away dot down under the sticks, to leave the score at 22-0.

The second half saw Sunderland fight for a way back into the game, and they came close on a number of occasions through driving mauls, however they were unable to turn their pressure into any points.

Northumbria grabbed their fifth try through the winger Russell again, who this time received a long looping pass from the fly-half to race down the left channel and score in the corner, taking the scoreboard to 29-0 with the extras being added on this occasion.

Sunderland suffered a number of key setbacks as the half ebbed on, with Digman and second row Josh Pool both having to leave the field through injury, making a possible fightback even harder.

With both teams finishing men short due to sin-binnings, Northumbria got the final say in a strong performance on 75 minutes, with replacement scrum-half Ollie Hunt picking the ball up at the base of a ruck to sprint over and touch down.

All in all, a disappointing afternoon for Sunderland, but some positives to take and build upon, not least a very strong performance from the pack and well executed set play that on another day, would have warranted some points.