CHRIS Heywood's 20-year career with Northwich ended with his side's final league game of the season at the weekend, which finished in a 17-17 home draw with Stockport.

Blacks were five minutes away from sending Heywood out with a victory but a double forward pass inside their own 22 proved costly.

Northwich managed to defend the resulting scrum but Stockport tried passing wide and their assault on the Northwich back-line resulted in a penalty.

The visitors opted for a lineout, and a well-executed catch and drive saw Rory Austin cross the whitewash to level the scores.

Dearing narrowly missed his conversion attempt and the game petered out into a draw but not before a farewell gesture by veteran Heywood.

After playing more than 400 games for the club including the triumphant appearance at Twickenham where Northwich won the National EDF Cup Final, the long serving ever-combatant, committed lock stole a line-out throw in the dying moments when Stockport were threatening to spoil his farewell performance.

He was justifiably congratulated at the final whistle for his service to the club and every member wishes him a long and happy retirement from playing for the club he has steadfastly and loyally served for 20 years.

After the game, head coach Sam Naylor said: “I was very pleased with our performance, especially with the way we defended in the first half and how we took the game to Stockport after the break.

“I thought everyone deserved a mention for the way they all played but I thought Chris Heywood was man of the match, and it was fitting that the great man's final contribution to his career at our club was to steal a Stockport throw."

Although both teams would finish comfortably in mid-table, neither side were prepared to see the season out with a dead-rubber fixture and the pride and passion displayed by both teams ensured the large home crowd saw an enthralling encounter.

The visitors had a majority of the play and possession in the first half and Northwich dominated large spells after the interval.

Stockport came out the blocks the quicker of the two sides and took the game to Northwich, whose defence was tested throughout the first period.

The relentless pressure created by the well drilled Stockport outfit saw them take a 12-point lead at the break.

Naylor rallied his charges at the break and Blacks came out after the re-start all charged up.

Second XV development squad captain Harry Naylor, playing at scrum-half, opened the scoring for the home side when he took a quick tap penalty five metres from the line and he barged over the whitewash, giving winger Tom Husband an easy kick to bring Blacks within five points of their opponents.

Ten minutes later Northwich were in front when a series of charges by Jordan Clarke, Harry Naylor and Matt Lafeta resulted in powerhouse lock Andre Nell crashing over.

Husband added the conversion to put Northwich two points in front and the lead was extended to five points three minutes later when Husband added a penalty.

But Stockport were good enough late on to earn their share of the spoils.

Several of the Northwich overseas contingent will be returning to their homelands in the near future but such is the spirit within the squad, most have expressed their wish to return in time for the next campaign and help their adopted club consolidate their position in Level 5 National League rugby.