IF previous meetings are a measure of progress, Northwich are heading in the right direction.

Blacks’ only defeat in 2016 to date was on the same pitch seven months ago during an RFU Intermediate Cup clash.

On Saturday they became the first visiting team to win a league encounter there since April of last year, ending a sequence of 17 successive victories in front of their own supporters for St Benedicts.

Unsurprisingly given those numbers, Martin Poste’s men – without regular starters Richard Dale, Jonny English and Joe Maddocks – were made to work for their reward.

They started brightly, taking the lead inside five minutes.

After Northwich forwards’ drive to the line was held up, the ball was moved wide to James Underhill who in turn invited loose-head prop Sean Phillips to barge over the line.

Nick Baldwin added the extras.

Defences at both ends of the field dominated, although St Benedicts took a chance to convert a penalty awarded after a high tackle.

They repeated the trick shortly afterwards when a visiting player strayed offside.

The Cumbrians then edged in front on 20 minutes when they won a foot-race to a ball kicked forward by one of their centres.

A conversion made it 13-7, although Baldwin landed a three-pointer to close the gap following a dangerous tackle.

It was from one of his kicks, sent deep into home team territory, that Northwich recaptured the lead.

Underhill recovered the ball, and passed it to Sam Naylor.

He found Rick Smith in support, and the second-rower drove over.

Baldwin slotted the conversion, only for St Benedicts to notch back-to-back penalties – the first for offside, the second for hands in the ruck – to establish a narrow 19-17 lead.

The only points in the second period were from Baldwin’s right boot, a pair of penalties – the second with three minutes left – settling a close encounter in his side’s favour.

They occupy third place in North One West with six wins from as many matches.

Leaders Kirkby Lonsdale are their next guests on Saturday week.

Northwich | Phillips, James, Dudley, Farley, Smith, Naylor, Chris Dale, Heywood, Poste, Baldwin, Underhill, Reilly, Du Randt, Houghton, Barber Replacements Gavin, Thompson, Davies Tries Phillips, Smith Cons Baldwin (2) Pens Baldwin (3)

Additional reporting by Steve Wood