IF Northwich are weighed down by a burden of expectation after finishing third last season, they did not show it.

In the end, they prevailed last weekend with plenty to spare.

And director of rugby Martin Poste will have seen ample margin for improvement too.

They were swift to start, and took the lead inside the opening minute.

Sam Naylor passed inside to James Underhill, who in turn invited Bud Skinkis to surge to the line through a flimsy defence.

Nick Baldwin added a conversion.

Blacks were in control, and dominated possession, but did not add to their tally.

Instead the home team drew level after centre Dom Macklin intercepted a loose pass before carrying the ball deep into Northwich territory.

He was tackled by Richard Dale, but off-loaded to Oli Coldman who dotted down.

Rochdale were ahead shortly afterwards, this time Coldman making a break before handing on to Josh Schofield to make it 12-7.

Northwich did not panic, and replied when Kyle Lindsay barged over after Chris Dale’s charge had set up a ruck.

Baldwin was again on target.

However it was the hosts that led at the break after Danny Joesbury claimed a pushover try to establish a narrow 17-14 advantage.

Northwich’s backs division continued to apply pressure in the second half, although the visitors had a helping hand to recapture the lead.

The referee awarded a penalty try in their favour after a maul was pulled down close to the Rochdale line.

Tom Helliwell was sent to the sin bin for his part, and seven points gave Blacks control again.

A trademark try, when Baldwin’s cross-field kick was taken to the line by Skinkis after Naylor’s pass had released Richard Dale to maraud forward, followed for the visitors.

Baldwin’s boot remained reliable.

Northwich repeated their previous trick to complete the scoring, again Baldwin sending a kick towards Skinkis.

His progress was halted, but Richard Dale was on hand to pick up the pieces before scoring.

Poste’s side, which still has the likes of Joel Barber, Will du Randt and Joe Maddocks to return, play a first match of the campaign at Moss Farm this Saturday when Warrington visit.

The visitors lost 22-10 at Douglas in their opening fixture of the campaign.

Kick-off is at 3pm.

Northwich | Bates, Lindsay, Thompson, Dudley, Heywood, Naylor, English, Chris Dale, Poste, Baldwin, Reilly, Underhill, Richard Dale, Harrison, Skinkis Replacements Farley, Wilkinson, Jackson Tries Skinkis (2), Lindsay, Richard Dale Cons Baldwin (3)

Match report by Steve Wood