Rockcliff battle back from poor start to beat Sunderland

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Rockcliff bounced back from the previous week’s setback at Bishop Auckland with a hard fought win, in atrocious conditions, over promotion rivals Sunderland on Saturday.

Drew Hayton returned to front row action alongside Steven Pentland and James Lemin, with Jethro Pearson partnering Chris Keen in the engine room and a back row of skipper Liam Bowman, Tom Reid, and the evergreen Neil Thornton.

Dan Simpson and the versatile Josh Donnelly made up the half-back pairing, and the back line was made up of centres Dan O’Sullivan and Niall Stokes, wingers Charlie Muzzlewhite and Kieran Lydall, and full back Chris McCabe.

The Red and Golds got off to the worst possible start when the Sunderland winger intercepted a wayward pass and raced through to score for 5-0 after only two minutes.

A second try from the visitors had Rockcliff on the back foot, but both sides struggled to play any fluent rugby in the driving wind and rain.

A half-time pep talk from Bowman lifted Rockcliff, and Donnelly made the most of an opportunity to get the home side on the score board, slotting home a penalty for 10-3.

Shortly afterwards Bowman led by example, barrelling over for a try, converted by Donnelly for 10-10.

Rockcliff continued to press and eventually were rewarded when Stokes crashed over from close range to score the winning try.

Hayton took the honours as man of the match, and Harry Elliot came off the bench for his first team debut.

The result sees Rockcliff maintain fourth place in Durham and Northumberland Division 2, still in touch with the promotion places.

On Saturday Rockcliff travel to Seaton Carew.