Rockcliff’s promotion hopes were dashed in the their final game of the season as Sunderland leap-frogged them to take second place and secure promotion.
Sunderland started strongly, using their big pack to bulldoze forward into Rockcliff’s 22, but Rockcliff defended well and forced a penalty which they opted to run.
As the ball was worked down the back-line, Craig O’Donavan intercepted a pass and scuttled through to give Sunderland a 5-0 lead afrer only five minutes.
Rockcliff battled back and gradually turned the tide, forcing Sunderland back into their own half, and as Josh Donnelly broke through the Sunderland midfield he looked to set Andrew Telford clear, but a Sunderland defender deliberately knocked on, receiving a yellow card and giving Rockcliff a one-man advantage.
Andrew Webster slotted home the resultant penalty for 5-3, and from the restart the Red and Golds worked the ball upfield and were camped in the visitors’ ten-metre zone, but the Sunderland defence some how held out.
A second Sunderland player was sin-binned, for persistent offending at the break-down, and finally Rockcliff got their noses in front, when Andrew Webster slotted home a second penalty for 5-6.
The sides changed ends with Rockcliff holding on to their one-point lead, but two quick tries from Sunderland early in the second half turned the game on its head.
From a line-out on the left wing, Sunderland worked the ball wide and Matt Watt broke through a gap in the home defence to put Sunderland back in front at 10-6.
Six minutes later, Sunderland launched another attack and Dan Abrahams scored in the right-hand corner, to give Sunderland a 15-6 advantage with ten minutes of the half gone.
Again Rockcliff came back, pressing Sunderland back into their own 22, but they just couldn’t find a way through a stubborn rearguard.
Neil Thornton, supporting the backs, almost broke through, but a last-ditch tap tackle caught him short and the defence recovered.
With three minutes left, Sunderland finally got the ball back upfield and after forcing a line-out, the referee spotted an infringement and Peter Carter caught Rockcliffs defence napping when he took a quick tap penalty and he sniped through for 20-6.
Despite the disappointment of narrowly missing out on promotion, this has been a good season for a young Rockcliff side and if they can keep the squad together, they have everything to look forward to for next year’s campaign.