Hartlepool Rovers eased into the Durham Intermediate Cup Final with this 39-5 win over Sunderland.
Without ever hitting top form, the Whites were comfortable winners running in six tries in the semi-final clash with the Wearsiders at Hill View, their regular home at Ashbrooke being prepared for the cricket season.
Some of the gloss was taken off the victory with Adam Smith suffering an ankle injury and Callum Whitehead being sent off.
Smith was injured whilst scoring Rovers’ second try just before the break but is expected to be fit in time for the final in a fortnight.
Whitehead had not long been on the pitch as a second half substitute when he retaliated to a punch thrown by former West Hartlepool star Jonny Boatman and was shown the red card by referee Hamish Grant, Boatman receiving a yellow, and who looks set to miss the final.
The hosts took immediate advantage of Rovers being in disarray to pull five points back but this was the cue for Rovers to run in three excellent tries in the closing 12 minutes.
Rovers will now play the winners of the second semi-final between Gateshead and Hartlepool who are due to meet at Eastwood Gardens on Wednesday night.
The Friaragemen took a fifth minute lead when Ryan Foreman kicked a 46-metre penalty.
Rovers increased their lead to 10-0 on 18 minutes but had to take play from their own 22 and enjoy some good luck to do so.
Alex Rochester kicked upfield from a mark with Smith giving chase, and two tap penalty moves saw Andrew Flounders and Ian Pinchen held before a wayward pass to Liam Wood saw the ball bounce off his ankles over the line, the flanker being alert to touch it down.
Ryan Foreman kicked the touchline conversion and the lead was 10-0.
A period of scrappy play followed with Rovers failing to use their territorial advantage and Sunderland’s Lewis Sopp and Nathan Foster kicking every piece of possession that came their way.
Rochester nearly broke free but could not hold onto the greasy ball and Smith then looked set to run home but was well tackled by Ben Hodgson.
A Stephen Flounders’ right wing run after 34 minutes won a penalty for Rovers and Matty Stephenson broke with play taken on by Andrew Flounders and Lee Maddison before Smith received to make the line under some pressure.
Foreman kicked another excellent conversion from the touchline and Rovers led 17-0.
Some solid scrummaging on 45 minutes sent Rochester away.
The full-back looked set to run home but was caught by Boatman and Stephen Flounders couldn’t take his inside pass five metres out.
Sub Ian Coulson should have crossed in the opposite corner two minutes later when Rochester this time flew down the left wing.
The 17-year-old timed his pass to Coulson to perfection but the wingman spilled the ball in the tackle three metres from the line.
Rovers went further ahead from their next possession when Andrew Flounders’ rampaging run saw him well tackled a metre short winning a penalty.
A tap and go move saw Jack Gunn turn his body when tackled by Matthew Scully to ground the ball and make for a 22-0 scoreline.
Games can sometimes turn in an instant and Rovers had such a moment on the hour mark.
Mr Grant incorrectly penalised Stephenson at a scrum near the home line and a couple of penalties and follow-up lineout takes later Rovers found themselves inside their own 22.
The dust-up between Boatman and Whitehead then occurred with the red and yellow cards being shown.
Rovers, unsurprisingly with their eyes off the ball, conceded from the penalty when full-back Mark Edmundson darted over to cut the deficit to 5-22.
The visitors were stung into action and worked a great try on 68 minutes.
Dylan Langley superbly offloaded to Liam Austwicke to keep an early move going with Maddison handing onto Ian Flounders who showed great pace for a front-row forward and won a penalty 12 metres out.
Jonny Cushlow powered towards the line with the ball then being spread for Austwicke to cross and Foreman’s two-pointer made it 29-5.
Home sub Andrew Pears then looked set to score from a chip ahead but he knocked-on as he tried to ground the ball.
After this let-off, the White Shirts countered to increase their lead to 34-5 after 75 minutes.
Stephen Flounders pulled off an interception on his 22 and hared upfield but was chased down and hauled down two metres out. David Grand, in support, showed his experience to recycle the ball and unselfishly put leading try-scorer James Evens in for his tenth score of the season.
In stoppage time, the lead was increased to 39-5 when Austwicke shrugged off an earlier high tackle to break and, after good hands by Maddison and Patrick O’Callaghan, Ian Flounders put in a powerful run to offload to younger brother Stephen to run in.
“It was a bit of a stop-start affair to be honest,” said coach Carl Robinson afterwards.
“We took a while to get going and for a time we failed to keep hold of the ball, making it look like a hot potato.
“When we ran, passed and supported each other it all clicked and we became the team that we know we are.
“We need to move bigger packs around the pitch more and provide better quality ball to the backs. We have a backline that can cut defences to shreds but they need the ball to do that.
“The lineout needs a bit of firming up but I’m happy we’ve cleared this hurdle and made the final.”
Sunderland: Edmundson, Hodgson, Price, Forster, Tolley, Sopp, Fish, Hirst, Harrison, Hanlon, Stevenson, Carter (c), Sword, Scully, Boatman. Subs used: Buckley, Fraser, Dodds, Little, McNay, Younger, Pears
Try: Edmundson 62
Penalties awarded 10, kicked 0, missed 0; scrums won 14; lineouts won 9
Rovers: Rochester, S Flounders, Austwicke, Gunn, A Smith, Foreman, M Stephenson, A Flounders, Maguire, Pinchen, Langley, Baxter, Wood, Maddison, Dring (c). Subs used: Coulson, I Flounders, O’Callaghan, Evens, Grand, Cushlow, Whitehead
Tries: Wood 18; Smith 36; Gunn 49; Austwicke 68; Evens 75; S Flounders 80+2; conversions: Foreman 18, 36, 68; penalty: Foreman 5
Penalties awarded 11, kicked 1, missed 0; scrums won 10; lineouts won 11
Referee: Hamish Grant (Durham)
Sent off: Whitehead 61; sin bin: Price 17, Boatman 61