Sun 18
Sunderland v Durham City U14s by Phil Spooner

Sunderland v Durham City U14s by Phil Spooner

By David Garrity
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Durham travelled to Sunderland’s Hill View pitches looking to add to last week’s good result against Morpeth.


Durham travelled to Sunderland’s Hill View pitches looking to add to last week’s good result against Morpeth.

The match was staged in probably the best all-round playing conditions which the team has experienced for some time. Bright winter sunshine combined with moderate temperatures and little or no breeze, together with a flat and moist playing surface provided a near ideal platform for the first meeting of the sides since 2015/16. Durham’s squad of 22 was opposed by what appeared to be generally a physically larger Sunderland squad and everyone settled down to the prospect of good, hard contest. The match was refereed independently and consisted of three 20 minute periods.

Durham kicked-off proceedings with Tunstall Hill to their right and playing towards the sea. Early encounters focused around the central area, with Sunderland’s handling being suspect on a few occasions. Durham were giving as good as they got in a fairly even midfield tussle until, on 4 minutes, they regained possession from a Sunderland scrum 15 yards into Sunderland’s half, spotted an overlap on their left and made a two man overlap count in the most efficient way. Touch down 10 yards to the left of Sunderland’s posts made for a straightforward conversion and a welcome early 7-0 lead for the visitors.

Handling errors continued to interrupt Sunderland’s momentum after the restart and this thwarted some threatening drives into Durham’s territory. A tough midfield battle ensued until Durham conceded a penalty which was kicked into touch well and deep into Durham’s half. Typically, Durham then turned defence into attack in seconds with swift recovery and a break forward which, catching Sunderland unawares, led to the home side conceding a penalty in centre pitch. This was kicked very well to touch on the left wing of Sunderland’s 22 and Durham stormed forward from the line out to run in their second try right under Sunderland’s posts. A successful conversion gave Durham a 14-0 lead after 10 minutes. Sunderland rallied after the restart and once more put pressure on Durham’s defence which held fast on their 22 yard line. Defence turned to attack from that point with Durham recovering the ball and moving it from right to left right across the pitch until the opportunity for a break though came on the left and a try was run in right in the corner for a 19-0 lead after 18 minutes. This remained the score as the whistle ended the first period two minutes later.

Sunderland started the second period brightly and, after launching into the Durham half, were steadily pushed back by a series of probing drives until they found themselves under pressure 15 yards from their own posts. Briefly regaining possession, Sunderland’s respite was short-lived as Durham ripped the ball back and a mazy run evaded defenders for a touch down right under the posts. Duly converted, this meant that Durham now had real breathing space for the first time with a 26-0 lead. The lead increased further after 8 minutes when a great surge by Durham and great back play made it over the line for a 31-0 lead.

Despite the score, the match was by no means one way traffic and Sunderland’s forward power was an ever-present threat which required constant attention from Durham’s defence. Parked on their own try line for a number of phases, desperate defending held out for some time until Sunderland were rewarded for their efforts when they forced over a try after 18 minutes. Unfortunately for the home side, the conversion was not successful and the score remained 31-5 at the close of the second period.

The third and final period began with Sunderland resuming their offensive. Benefitting from a rare passage of poor tackling from Durham, they pushed down their left wing and over to reduce Durham’s lead, although this remained 31-10 after another unsuccessful conversion. A period of generally untidy play followed until Durham were awarded a scrum 10 yards into the Sunderland half. Quick as a flash, the ball was released from the scrum as Durham spotted a gap in Sunderland’s defences and a fine sprint ended with another try right under the posts which was then followed by a successful conversion. Durham therefore held a lead of 38-10 as the match entered its final 10 minutes.

Almost immediately after the restart, handling errors gave Durham easy possession and ominous left to right passing began as they searched for an opportunity to pierce Sunderland’s defence. It was duly spotted and acted upon on the right wing and a good run past four defenders opened up the Sunderland posts for a 43-10 score which rose to 45-10 after the successful conversion. A minute later a great break through the centre and another successful conversion pushed Durham’s lead to 52-10 which remained the score until the final whistle blew 8 minutes later.

Durham fully deserved the victory and the extent of it. They were tested by a powerful Sunderland side which contained some real threats. However Sunderland will know that handling errors, in particular, let them down all too often and gave Durham some easy possession at key moments of the match. This is not to say that Durham were in any way ‘gifted’ this match. It was a tough test of their grit and determination and, apart from a short period of untidy play and loose tackling for one of Sunderland’s tries, they were the better side and played their typical brand of calm, measured, patient and then ruthlessly efficient rugby. They certainly are a pleasure to watch when they do this!
Well done again Durham…..let’s keep the run going against Alnwick this weekend.

Good luck!

Phil Spooner

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Match details

Match date

Sun 18, Feb 2018