Crewe & Nantwich 21-8 Winnington Park

WINNINGTON Park’s best chance of triumphing in this contest came, and then went again, inside the first 20 minutes.

But that only became clear afterwards.

Captain Dave Cross had said beforehand that his teammates could take inspiration from how they performed, and prevailed, during last season’s Cheshire RFU Bowl final.

And they started as though they’d read his words too.

Matt Farr’s men, urged forward on by a huge travelling support, tore into their opponents.

It was a perhaps a risky strategy to play at such a high tempo in suffocating temperatures, but it felt certain they would break through such was their dominance.

That they didn’t was sapping.

Their morale was hit too when Crewe, a man down after referee James Taggart had sent one of their number to the sin bin, scored a converted try from their first attack on 18 minutes.

Scrum-half George Colebourne darted to the line, and Jim Creighton converted.

It was a clinical streak they would show more than once in the hour that followed.

Cameron Flanagan’s penalty-kick struck an upright, further proof for Park it might not be their afternoon.

He was on target from his next attempt, by which time Farr had sent on Harry Stubbs to strengthen a forward-line that was lighter – but flightier – than their rivals.

Mike Eaves and Gary Dykes also relieved Dan Snowden and Mike Hallworth shortly after the turnaround.

However neither replacement had time to make a contribution before wing Toby Ward cut a line through Park’s defence to score Crewe’s second try.

Creighton again added the extras, making it 14-3.

A growing influence in the game, Crewe’s stand-off was off-target with a three-point attempt three minutes later.

Winnington, with a smaller share of possession than in the opening period, struggled to apply pressure and Jack Williams’ frustration showed when he was sent to the sin bin for a high tackle.

He was followed there by an opponent on the hour, and it spurred Park.

Shaun Underdown was held up on the line at the end of a trademark charge but a delay wasn’t long before he did burrow over after supporting Matt Cross.

Flanagan’s kick from the touchline was off the mark, but Park’s hopes of recovering were raised.

Crewe, ruthless, dashed them instantly when Tom Fenney crossed in the corner after collecting Ward's pass.

Creighton improved the score, and Alex Glendinning was shown a yellow card in the aftermath.

It meant John Farr, Matt’s younger brother and Crewe’s head coach, could celebrate his birthday by holding aloft a trophy.

Park | Snowden, Evans, Underdown, Dave Cross, Hallworth, Glendinning, Treacy, Danny Wiliams, Matt Cross, Flanagan, Hawes, Brookes, Houghton, Allmark, Jack Williams Replacements Twigg, Sanchez, Eaves, Moran, Stubbs, Dykes Try Underdown Pen Flanagan