ON this weekend two years ago this fixture, never mind the result, will have felt far away for both clubs.

Northwich humbled hosts Hoylake, recording a fourth successive victory that still left them eight points adrift of top spot.

They went on to win the next 17 games, and were promoted as champions.

Firwood were similarly comfortable that day, brushing aside Burnage and rising to second in National League Three North – two tiers above Blacks.

Their first meeting as equals at Moss Farm on Saturday, won by the home team, is proof of how far Northwich have progressed under Martin Poste in that time.

Indeed, the director of rugby has remarked recently that his side has learned different ways to prevail.

They remain used to beating opponents on home turf, and have done so now in the past 11 North One West games in front of their own supporters.

However the latest example had its origin in an evolving resilience Blacks are not celebrated enough for.

There is pragmatism too, and a decision to lean on Nick Baldwin to convert a pair of high-pressure penalties in the second-half was correct on both occasions.

His right boot accounted for Northwich’s only points after the interval, but they were ones that settled the outcome.

“Don’t worry lads, this isn’t going over,” remarked one visiting player while the fly-half prepared to kick the first.

His words felt indicative of Firwood Waterloo’s afternoon; they never got to grips with what was in front of them.

The early exchanges were spent almost entirely in the visitors’ 22-metre line, although Joel Barber’s try – converted by Baldwin – felt a paltry return for Blacks’ dominance.

Their guests invited that pressure, at least in part, by repeatedly infringing to concede penalties.

Indeed, the full-back crossed while his side had a numerical advantage with scrum-half Jonny Roberts in the sin bin.

Firwood Waterloo responded when Scott Davidson charged to the line after Richard Dale failed to intercept Jimmy Muir’s pass.

Tommy Higham, who had earlier slotted a penalty, made it 10-7 with a successful conversion.

The away side starved their hosts of possession during their best spell, and Dale’s try in the sixth minute of added time – converted by Baldwin – came against the run of play.

Davidson was shown a yellow card as punishment for a high tackle in the build-up, although his return after the interval helped Firwood Waterloo to edge in front for a second time.

A scrum in front of Northwich’s posts ended with the award of a penalty try, and their players’ reaction suggested they felt they had Blacks where they wanted.

Baldwin’s penalties dampened that cheer, and gave the home crowd its voice.

Their side, which finished third last season, are comfortable now in these surroundings.

The visitors, with five defeats on their record in nine games to date, appear less so.

Northwich | King, Lindsay, Cairns, Harrison, Dudley, Naylor, Heywood, Balshaw, Poste, Baldwin, Skinkis, Underhill, Richard Dale, Houghton, Barber Replacements Wilkinson, Lapniewski, Stirk Tries Barber, Richard Dale Cons Baldwin (2) Pens Baldwin (2)