A chance to win a trophy

Northwich have won the Cheshire RFU Vase more often than any rival and have an opportunity to add a fourth final victory to their tally.

Their most recent success was two years ago when they beat Birkenhead Park and Blacks will meet the same opponents again at Easter if they can eliminate holders Wirral.

That contest was postponed last weekend because of the weather.

Martin Poste’s men have eliminated Anselmians (38-12) and Sandbach (23-20) to reach this stage and the prospect of being in the starting line-up when a piece of silverware is the prize will focus attention during the remaining weeks of the campaign.

READ > Birkenhead 10-36 Northwich: Cheshire RFU Vase final report

Blacks’ resolve remains striking

A fortnight ago Northwich prepared to welcome Stockport to Moss Farm on the back of three defeats from their previous four matches in North One West.

They came out on the right side of a 12-3 score-line after a bruising encounter that was settled by late tries for Will Du Randt and Chris James.

Sandbach posed another test after recovering from 12-0 down to lead 17-12 by the break.

If they expected that to end their lower-ranked guests’ resistance, they were proved wrong when James pushed over from close-range on the hour.

A side that has won as often as they have in the past four seasons doesn’t give up.

READ > Sandbach 20-23 Northwich: match report

Injuries are a concern

Northwich lost three players – James Underhill, Robin Houghton and Sam Naylor – during the course of a hard-fought contest on Saturday.

The first of those is certain to sit out a trip to Carlisle, the North One West leaders and title-favourites – this weekend after sustaining serious facial injury while the other two are doubtful.

Phil Williams has also been struggling with a groin injury and didn’t feature at Bradwell Road, where Matt Ensor returned after a brief lay-off of his own.

That has forced Poste to turn to alternatives and the likes of Aaron Collins and Shaun Burmah were able to make a case for their inclusion in the future after making cameos from the bench.

In praise of Nick Baldwin

Poste described his stand-off afterwards as ‘imperious’ and it’s hard to argue with his assessment.

Baldwin did not have a flawless afternoon but that is to miss the point.

When he had to, and with the pressure on, he executed two penalty-kicks from distance after the interval – scores that ultimately separated Northwich from their hosts.

It shouldn’t be forgotten either that his kick cross-field led to Bud Skinkis touching down the game’s opening try early in the first-half.

A player of his awareness and composure is difficult to find.

The chemistry he has with scrum-half Matthew Poste, Blacks’ captain, makes them a formidable half-back pairing.

The return of Chris Dale

Northwich’s club captain ran the line in the opening period but was introduced by Poste for the closing stages – his first appearance since a thrilling last-gasp win against Firwood Waterloo at the start of November.

Dale was stationed in the backs division following injuries to Underhill and Houghton, and clearly revelled in the circumstances.

He remains an influential character, in the dressing room and out on the field, although that has been felt less while he’s attempted to overcome a long-term arm injury.

If he can become a regular presence again during the run-in then it can only be a huge benefit to the team.

READ > Northwich: remaining fixtures this season