A SIXTH successive win has guaranteed Northwich will finish at least third, while James Reilly’s return gave their supporters twice the reason to feel cheerful.

The centre has spent the past four months recovering from a broken elbow sustained in November.

His teammates were in control throughout against relegation-threatened Leigh.

Blacks took the lead inside 10 minutes, when Richard Dale picked up a loose ball following a lineout and evaded several attempts to tackle him before touching down.

The visitors did not have everything their own way, and they did not score again until Kyle Lindsay dotted down.

Nick Baldwin converted both tries, and slotted a penalty in between to establish a 17-0 interval lead.

Northwich added to their advantage early in the second half when Lindsay was the beneficiary after Baldwin had collected his own chip forward.

And a bonus-point was secure shortly afterwards when Baldwin, after receiving the ball from Richard Dale, picked out Joel Barber with perfectly-weighted cross-field kick.

The full-back did the rest, and Blacks were out of reach from their opponents.

Leigh rallied, but their attempts to score were repelled by a disciplined Northwich defence.

And Martin Poste’s men, who take on Birkenhead Park in the Cheshire RFU Vase final at Crewe and Nantwich on Easter Monday, added gloss to their victory in the closing stages.

Sam Naylor’s break released James Underhill, who slipped a pass inside for wing Bud Skinkis to add his name to a list of try-scorers.

Naylor was the catalyst for Northwich’s next score, starting a move that involved Richard Dale and Underhill before replacement Aaron Collins crossed the whitewash close to the posts.

Baldwin’s conversion, his fifth of the afternoon, completed a comfortable victory.

Blacks are four points adrift off Birkenhead, who also have a superior points difference, with one match of the season left.

To pinch a promotion play-offs place, they need to see off fifth-placed Vale of Lune in their final fixture, on Saturday week, and hope Park return from Altrincham Kersal empty-handed.

Northwich | Thompson, Lindsay, Phillips, Dudley, Smith, Heywood, Naylor, English, Matthew Poste, Baldwin, Skinkis, Underhill, Reilly, Richard Dale, Barber Replacements Mike Bradshaw, Collins, Chris Dale Tries Richard Dale, Lindsay (2), Barber, Skinkis, Collins Cons Baldwin (5) Pen Baldwin

Match report by Steve Wood