SOMETIMES the means matter more.

To beat higher-ranked opponents is a notable result, one that brings with it the reward of a Cheshire RFU Vase final place, but Northwich’s resolve made the difference against Sandbach.

They had shown it against Stockport seven days earlier and had to again on Saturday.

The home team claimed changes, some enforced and others not, made them less cohesive.

After three defeats in four matches since the turn of the year, a victory would still have been cathartic.

It should be noted that Northwich were without a handful of regulars too with Michael Gough, Martin Balshaw and Phil Williams unavailable.

They withstood early pressure from enthusiastic opponents before opening the scoring on seven minutes.

Richard Dale’s surge from the base of a scrum took him deep into Sandbach territory before Nick Baldwin’s clever kick invited Bud Skinkis to collect and score in the corner.

The visitors added to their tally after turning over possession at a set-piece before Dale’s pass to Joel Barber saw the full-back canter to the line.

Baldwin’s conversion attempt was successful.

Sandbach rallied though and put their first points on the board when debutant Georg Niehaus broke clear and wing Jack Leech, in support, dotted down.

The home team drew level shortly before the break when referee Kieron Henry awarded a penalty-try after judging Barber’s attempt to stop Niehaus, diving towards the corner, to have been illegal.

Sandbach established an interval lead while he was in the sin-bin, Joe Jepps evading attempts to stop him after an impressive maul had driven the hosts forward from inside their own half.

Northwich, forced to reshuffle after losing centre James Underhill to injury, restored parity at 17-17 early in the second-half when hooker Chris James pushed over from close-range following a catch and drive at a lineout.

Blacks’ pressure prompted mistakes by their hosts and Baldwin slotted a penalty from distance after Sandbach captain Dan Stubbs was shown a yellow card.

Niehaus responded in kind, the culmination of a passage of play started by Baldwin failing to find touch from a restart, to set up a thrilling finish.

However Northwich’s stand-off, as he does so often, demonstrated his composure to land what proved to be a decisive three-pointer after Sandbach erred again.

By then Blacks had also lost Robin Houghton and Sam Naylor to injury, a concern ahead of a trip to Carlisle – the North One West champions-elect – next weekend.

But they resisted, helped too by more indiscipline by their hosts when they infringed again at a scrum in front of the visitors’ posts, to clinch a date with either Wirral or Birkenhead Park.

Northwich | Maddocks, James, Ridgway, Heywood, Clark, Sam Naylor, Ensor, Richard Dale, Poste, Baldwin, Houghton, Underhill, Du Randt, Skinkis, Barber Replacements used Husband, Burmah, Chris Dale, Collins Tries Skinkis, Barber, James Con Baldwin Pens Baldwin