BY their reckoning, Wilmslow produced a season-best performance to beat Northwich this time last year.

It will needle Blacks that their opponents weren’t required to do the same on Saturday.

An erratic display by referee John Pemberton, who managed to baffle both sets of supporters, only adds to the bruising.

The harshest blow was to the visitors’ gut though; they led 11-5 at the end of normal time, and still lost.

Wolves finished strongly, and the solitary prolonged period they spent in opposition territory yielded the only points of the second-half.

They were swift to recycle possession after fly-half Nick Baldwin’s clearing kick went up rather than long, moving the ball at speed from right to left.

The match official awarded a penalty-try, something he chose not to in strikingly similar circumstances during a Northwich raid early in the opening period, after judging Regan Stirk’s attempt to halt wing James Coulthurst to be an unfair one.

The replacement was sent to the sin-bin for the remainder.

At 12-11, Blacks at least had a losing bonus-point to protect.

That was taken from them though when Ethan Harding, making the most of his side’s numerical advantage, charged through a gap in a stretched defence to dot down in the sixth minute of added time.

Bob MacCallum converted once more and Wilmslow, beaten in four of their previous five games in North One West, could breathe a sigh of relief.

It was an outcome that had been hard to envisage, particularly as they had failed to threaten at all during a previous 10-minute spell with an extra man after Baldwin was shown a yellow card shortly after the interval.

Northwich defended diligently, but they were far from their fluid best with the ball in hand.

They created chances during a bright opening, although their decision-making let them down.

Martin Poste’s men appeared certain to score in the fifth minute after Will Du Randt, back in the side at full-back, gathered Sam Naylor’s cross-field kick.

He off-loaded to Joel Barber after an initial charge only for Wilmslow’s last man to infringe.

However Pemberton felt a score wasn’t inevitable, and Baldwin kicked a penalty instead.

He repeated the trick to make it 6-0 before Northwich notched their only try shortly afterwards.

Captain Matthew Poste was alert to tap a penalty, darting into a space from which he slipped a pass for Tom King to run in his first try since arriving from Chester last month.

Wilmslow rallied in the moments before half-time and Adam Hewitt, held up on the line in a previous push, was not to be denied again.

MacCallum pulled his kick wide though.

He made up for it later to help inflict a third away reverse of term on Blacks, who slip to fourth in the table.

Northwich | Ridgway, Lindsay, King, Dudley, Harrison, Heywood, Naylor, Balshaw, Poste, Baldwin, Skinkis, Richard Dale, Barber, Houghton, Du Randt Replacements Stirk, Lapniewski, Reilly Try King Pens Baldwin (2)