NORTHWICH produced a much-improved performance than the previous week against Stockport but lost 36-17 to a very strong and large Blackburn team at Moss Farm.

Playing in front of their largest crowd for a few seasons, and in sight of their recently boarded up clubhouse due to an arson attack a few days earlier, Northwich delivered a disciplined defensive performance and refused to give the current unbeaten pacesetters an easy afternoon.

In the corresponding fixture last season, the Lancastrians scored 92 unanswered points against their opponents but their superior size, strength and technique proved enough to secure a comfortable victory on their return by 19 points.

Northwich were hampered by the unavailability of four key players, Nick Baldwin, Jordan Clarke, Chris Heywood and Richard Dale, but the replacements stepped up admirably to help their team compete against the promotion favourites.

Ultimately, the home side were punished for too many unforced errors and lapses in concentration.

Blackburn established a 14-point lead within 10 minutes but Northwich then camped inside the Blackburn 22 without being able to penetrate the Blackburn line. Andre Nell dived for the line but the referee adjudged the South African powerhouse had knocked on before touching down.

Northwich’s efforts were rewarded after 34 minutes when Liam Batt measured a high kick to the opposite wing where the ball was spilled allowing centre Martin Austen to score unopposed.

Powerful prop Matt Lafeta then carried three defenders over the line between the sticks, giving Tom Husband an easy conversion to bring the home side within two points.

Northwich conceded another converted try though before the interval after a series of pick and drives.

Thirteen minutes after the re-start the visitors extended their lead after winning their own lineout and making another set of pick and drives pay off.

Northwich refused to yield and continued to take the game to Blackburn, with Du Randt's quick pass to winger Tim Wilson seeing the Aussie race in to the corner.

With the score at 28-17 in Blackburn’s favour, and with the home team beginning to tire from a hard day's graft, the visitors controlled the remainder of the game and added a penalty and unconverted try.

Next up is a trip to Didsbury to face Burnage.