EVERY season has a defining moment, and this is Northwich’s.

Promoted Blacks have already proven they belong at this level, and are certain now to finish in the top four.

Not that they’ve settled.

Instead they delivered a message to their rivals in a victory against play-offs hopefuls Birkenhead Park at Moss Farm on Saturday.

Nor was it a fluke.

Their guests had lost only once previously on their travels this season, at Vale of Lune, which is also the only occasion they have been prevented from scoring a try.

It left Northwich director of rugby Martin Poste – a former coaching director at the Wirral outfit – a proud man afterwards.

His side withstood early pressure, and their resilience earned reward after quarter of an hour.

Nick Baldwin, after James Underhill had made forward progress, floated a pass into prop Michael Bradshaw’s hands, and he nimbly made it to the line.

Baldwin’s conversion attempt was successful.

The stand-off was influential in Blacks’ second try, selling a clever dummy before sending front-row Mark Thompson to the line.

Birkenhead Park responded, landing two penalty kicks awarded for offside and a high tackle respectively.

However Baldwin then struck a fine drop goal to make it 15-6 at the interval.

Northwich needed only 60 seconds to add to their lead after the break, when Baldwin was on target with a three-point attempt.

Again their guests replied, throwing everything at Blacks’ defence for the next half an hour.

They were held at bay, with Bradshaw and Underhill outstanding in their defensive duties.

And they still had energy left to attack when an opportunity presented itself, Baldwin’s cross-field kick reaching Bud Skinkis who dotted down after scooping up the ball.

Baldwin converted too.

And Northwich secured a bonus-point their performance merited when Kyle Lindsay emerged from a driving maul to dart over.

Baldwin was again reliable with his kick.

It sets up perfectly a date with third-placed Wilmslow in a fortnight.

The contest doubles up too as a Cheshire RFU Vase semi-final.

Northwich | Thompson, Lindsay, Michael Bradshaw, Dudley, Heywood, Naylor, English, Chris Dale, Poste, Baldwin, Skinkis, Underhill, Barber, Brown, Du Randt Replacements Richard Dale, Chris Bradshaw, Phillips Tries Michael Bradshaw, Thompson, Skinkis, Lindsay Cons Baldwin (3) Pen Baldwin Drop Baldwin

Additional reporting by Steve Wood