Whitby RUFC’s Durham & Northumberland Division Two campaign drew to a close with a 20-15 home defeat to high-flying Sunderland.
When the two sides met on the opening day of the season, the Wearsiders claimed a 69-0 success, so the closeness in the scoreline this time around was an indication of how far the Maroons have progressed since September.
After losing six of their opening seven league fixtures, Darryl Grason’s side have improved steadily, securing a total of 11 victories from 26 games, leaving them eighth in the league standings.
Playing downhill in the first half, Whitby started well and took to the fight to the visitors, but Sunderland’s backs looked pacy and dangerous when they got the ball.
After a period of continued pressure, an excellent effort from the forwards saw George Reeves go over to open the scoring.
Sunderland hit back and full-back Stuart Gregson was called upon several times to pull off last-ditch tackles, however, eventually the away side did score a well-constructed team try out wide to level up the game.
The hosts, led well by captain Gordon Bland, pushed hard to try and reclaim the lead, and just before half-time, Dan Marsay who has enjoyed an excellent season in the second row plunged over the line for a 10-5 advantage at the interval.
Turning to play with the slope and the wind in the second period, Sunderland pinned Whitby back in their own half aided by some excellent tactical kicking by their stand-off.
Sustained pressure from the visitors’ pack eventually saw a kickable penalty awarded, and it was landed to reduce Whitby’s lead to just two points at 10-8.
With Whitby lacking organisation at the line-out, Sunderland began to dominate in that area, and a nicely orchestrated catch and drive went 30 metres for a touchdown that was converted for a 15-10 advantage.
The Maroons came straight back however and levelled the scores when a superb pass from Bland put Luke Brown in space on the wing and he handed-off a pair of would-be tacklers to cross for a fine individual score.
Whitby continued to attack and from a good turnover earned by James Newton and Connor Clements, they charged 60 metres upfield.
Unfortunately, a poor option to run a single player into a flat, well-organised defence saw the visitors effect a turnover of their own, allowing their speedy backs go 70 metres downfield for a try against the run of play.
Whitby threw everything at Sunderland in the last 15 minutes, but they made too many errors, and some poor game management allied with some terrible kicking saw them fail to get the last score and mean that they had to settle for a bonus point.
“This was a game which we could have won, but didn’t,” coach Grason said.
“I cannot fault the effort of the players, but on the day we were just not quite good enough.”
Whitby Co-operative man of the match: James Newton.