Steve Wood reports on a tough opening to life at a higher level for Northwich RUFC...

FOLLOWING 18 months of inactivity, Northwich RUFC finally retuned to playing league rugby.

Having gained promotion to North Premier, the trip to Preston Grasshoppers could not have been more daunting. The amazing facilities gave the players and supporters an insight into life at this level.

On a glorious day, the Blacks were given a baptism of fire – a 12-try drubbing at the hands of our illustrious opponents felt painful to all involved.

With six first XV regulars missing, a difficult opener at Preston was never going to be easy and that proved to be the case.

The match opened at a ferocious pace with Grasshoppers immediately on the offensive As half time approached, the Blacks seemed to have kept the home side down to a 20-point lead.

However, two converted tries late in the half gave the home side a 34-0 lead and took away any realistic hope of getting anything out of the contest. The Blacks had conceded five tries at the break having been outplayed.

The second half began with Northwich having to reshuffle the side due to injuries. This disruption only served to provide a rampant Preston with the platform to demonstrate their clear superiority.

Grasshoppers added a further seven tries in the half despite a heroic rearguard action. This defeat was hard felt and there was no way of hiding the disappointment.

Nevertheless there were positives to take from the match, notably the performance of Tom Clark, Ellis Vickery and newcomer Rory Williams.

Coach Andy Roberts will be hoping some of this week's absentees will be available for the coming week and to demonstrate how competitive we can be. Life at this level was always going to be tough and the Blacks will have to dig deep in order to compete.

On Saturday, Northwich entertain Macclesfield – kick off 3pm.

Team: Rory Williams, Tom Wilson, Ben Ridgway, Chris Heywood, Tom Clark, Aaron Collins, Ellis Vickery, Chris Dale; Richard Hart, Nick Baldwin; Tom Husbands, Richard Dale, Sam Naylor, John Harrison, James Weeks. Subs: Tom Merrick, Alfie Sinclair, Matt Purbrick