NORTHWICH Rugby Club suffered back-to-back defeats for the first time since October when they went down 27-17 against a strong and well organised Sandbach team.

It was a fairly evenly contested encounter but the home side’s superior scrummaging eventually proved the difference.

Northwich struggled to set up any decent platforms from their own put-ins at the scrum and were penalised several times for collapsing the drive from the home pack.

As a consequence, Northwich did not have enough possession to test the home side and several mistakes cost Blacks dearly.

When Northwich did have possession they looked to challenge the home defence but on several occasions the ball was either spilled in the tackle, passed forward or turned over by a resolute Sandbach defence.

Northwich were punished for their mistakes, none more so than at the beginning of the second half when a poor clearance kick was returned emphatically by Sandbach to score a relatively easy converted try to put the home side 18-10 ahead.

Sandbach opened the scoring within five minutes with full-back Preston slotting over an easy penalty.

When Ethyn Martin chipped over the onrushing Sandbach defence only to be taken out by two late tacklers just inside the Sandbach half skipper Nick Baldwin successfully kicked the resulting penalty to restore parity.

Midway through the first period, Baldwin delicately chipped the ball over the advancing home defence for Martin Austen to gather and he fed Martin who skipped through a couple of tackles before racing clear to score unopposed.

Five minutes later Sandbach reduced the arrears with a penalty and soon after Northwich found themselves behind when they failed to deal with a kick and the resulting recycle of the ball by Sandbach support players saw Leech scamper away for an easy try.

Northwich were reduced to 14 men when the referee harshly handed Scott Davidson a yellow card shortly before the break.

The re-start was a complete disaster for Blacks.

Austen collected the kick-off and fed the supporting Sammy Naylor but the head coach’s attempted clearance kick found Sandbach full back Preston, who, after making a few yards, made a perfectly timed pass to his supporting centre Leech who raced away unopposed for an 18-10 lead.

Sandbach’s scrummaging was now becoming more dominant but Blacks refused to yield and their efforts were rewarded after 48 minutes when, from one positive scrum, Batt fed Baldwin who linked with Austen and the South African's perfectly timed pass gave Martin a huge amount of space to sidestep several defenders from the half way line to score near the posts. Baldwin’s successful conversion brought his side within one point of the hosts.

From the re-start, a relatively easy catch was spilled by Batt, the resulting scrum saw Northwich penalised for a high tackle in front of the posts and Preston succeeded with his kick to give his side a four-point lead.

Sandbach continued to dominate possession with their superior scrummaging but Northwich’s defence held firm and the only points the visitors conceded in the closing stages were two further penalties.

Northwich missed the influence and input of Matt Lafeta, who was given a one-match ban from the previous week’s red card.

Blacks welcomed back Rory Leidekkers from his break in his home country South Africa.

The match also marked the debut off the bench of second row Paddy Douglas, who has followed his fellow Northern Rugby Club colleague Tom White to Moss Farm.

Next up is a home fixture against Stockport against whom Northwich will be looking to avenge a disappointing reversal earlier in the season.