HIGH-FLYING Wirral visited Moss Farm for the third encounter of the season with Northwich and went home with a 31-13 victory.

Although honours had been shared in the two previous encounters, Blacks were all too aware of the task ahead.

There were recalls to the side for Sam Patterson, Austin Fernandez and Callum Hulbert but Zac Richardson was forced to stand down due to an injury.

The match started with Northwich on the offensive and they pressured the visitors for long periods until they were finally rewarded with a Taylor Haugh try following an excellent build-up. The extras went begging.

The response from Wirral only took five minutes with what was arguably the best score of the match.

Following a multi-phased attack the ball was moved to the right where an accurate inside pass found the supporting player who ran in untouched. The conversion was scored, and the visitors took the lead.

Two minutes later a Tom Husbands penalty restored the Northwich advantage on the scoreboard.

As the first half entered stoppage time Wirral converted a penalty of their own, retaking the lead that they never relinquished.

At this point Blacks had looked the stronger of the two sides with every reason to be optimistic in getting a result.

Within five minutes of the re-start Wirral extended their lead with a well taken converted try following a good attacking approach.

Northwich seemed to lose shape and tried to force a score.

On the 60th minute a penalty gave Wirral an attacking lineout. With the ball secured the subsequent drive proved unstoppable and a converted try was the result.

As the match entered the final 10 minutes Northwich had an attacking scrum.

The ball was moved wide, Haugh joined the line, and a half-break enabled him to release Husbands for a deserved score. The conversion miss left Blacks well short of a bonus point.

The hammer blow came in added time when from Northwich possession the ball was turned over and some extremely good footwork from Wirral resulted in a converted try, giving the visitors a bonus point win and third-from-bottom Northwich a massive challenge for the remainder of the season.

There were some fine performances from Northwich, notably Patrick Douglas, Logan Mitchell, Sam Patterson, and the man-of-the-match Haugh.

Blacks are now preparing for the foot-of-the-table clash at Sandbach on March 2, a match that could have a massive bearing on the outcome of the season.

Northwich (15-9, 1-8): Taylor Haugh, Tom Husbands, Jack Owens, Richard Dale, Austin Fernandez, Logan Mitchell, Liam Batt, Callum Hulbert, Eon Du Preez, Rory Leijdekkers, Sam Patterson, Patrick Douglas, Aaron Collins, Anthony Keller, Sam Naylor. Replacements: Carl Woods, Harry Naylor, Charlie Bancroft.