A CONTROVERSIAL officials decision did not help Northwich’s cause as they fell to a troubling 33-7 defeat at Sandbach on Saturday.

Blacks, who are now fully embroiled in a Regional 1 North West relegation battle with their hosts and bottom side Leek, were trailing 14-7 but in the ascendancy early into the second half when a change of mind by the referee hit them hard.

Blacks were attacking close to the touchline and the touch judge raised his flag and immediately put it down.

Play continued, Northwich crossed the line and the try was awarded.

The Sandbach players remonstrated, claiming they were distracted, and the referee overturned his decision much to the annoyance of all concerned with Northwich.

This incident clearly had a negative affect for Blacks as Sandbach regained composure and went on the offensive to establish the lead that won them the game.

A long period of pressure on the Northwich try line was eventually rewarded with a converted try and a 21-7 advantage.

With 20 minutes remaining the tireless Northwich defence held up a drive over the line.

The drop-out was recovered by Sandbach and they launched an attack that ended with an unconverted try, giving them the much-needed bonus point.

A final try in the last minutes sealed a deserved victory for the home side, Blacks with a mountain to climb to avoid relegation in their remaining three matches.

The first ten minutes were played with both sides trying to establish superiority.

Sandbach drew first blood.

A solid lineout deep in Northwich territory was well driven before the ball was moved wide giving the home side a score close to the posts which was subsequently converted.

A pattern was beginning to develop as Sandbach used their driving maul to great effect.

One such maul produced a penalty and quick tap from the scrum half which gave them the easiest of scores that was once again converted.

There were some questions from the Northwich faithful as to why the referee allowed the penalty to be taken a full metre in front of the mark, but the score stood, and a 14-point lead had been achieved.

For the remainder of the half the home side seemed to be on top as they continued to show ambition and control.

However, as the half went into stoppage time Sandbach lost the ball in the tackle and Richard Dale gathered and sprinted 70 metres to score an unexpected try that was converted by Harry Naylor.

But the second half then got away for Blacks and Sandbach went on to deserve a crucial win that now leaves them second from bottom but level on points with Blacks.

There were some excellent contributions for Northwich from Jonny English, Jonny Pym and man-of-the-match Aaron Collins who was at the heart of all the action.

A break this weekend will provide Blacks the opportunity to regather and plan for the final push.

Northwich (15-9, 1-8): Taylor Haugh, Tom Husbands, Jack Owens, Richard Dale, Austin Fernandez, Logan Mitchell, Harry Naylor, Callum Hulbert, Fraser Dodd, Rory Leijdekkers, Sam Naylor, Patrick Douglas, Aaron Collins, Jonny Pym, Jonny English. Replacements: Zac Richardson, Liam Batt, Craig Fortune.