Resilience, IT’S not just the tries.
Northwich's durability in defence thwarts Stockport
Northwich scored enough tries to see off Stockport, but this was a victory borne out of defensive resilience. It was crystallized in one moment midway through the opening period.
The visitors led 14-7, a reward for their storming start, when Dean Schofield charged towards the line in anticipation of increasing his side’s lead. Only Joel Barber blocked his path. But Stockport’s player-coach, a former favourite at Sale Sharks, never made it across the line. Blacks’ centre held him up, and the home support greeted it in the same way they did when he scored a try later. The affect was galvanizing for Northwich, who at that moment were a man down with Martin Balshaw in the sin bin as a punishment for repeated infringements.
They had toiled to contain Stockport’s superior strength in the early exchanges, and trailed 7-0 inside five minutes. A response followed quickly, and Richard Dale darted onto Nick Baldwin’s clever kick cross-field to score after an opponent failed to avert the danger. Baldwin’s successful conversion from out wide was expertly-taken.
The contest continued to ebb and flow, and Stockport restored their lead on 14 minutes with a second try – again converted by Liam McGovern. When Balshaw was then shown a yellow card, Blacks were teetering. Barber’s invention steadied them, and Dale’s scorching run from deep inside his own half almost yielded a sensational try on the counter.
He traded passes with Bud Skinkis, but couldn’t gather the return. Barber demonstrated an opportunistic streak when he capitalised on sloppy Stockport defending to win a foot-race to a ball flicked carelessly backwards by an opponent. Baldwin duly levelled the scores with a conversion. And Martin Poste’s men were streetwise when they edged in front for the first time. Will Du Randt reacted smartly when a pass went astray, and kicked on the loose ball twice before slipping a pass to Chris Heywood who dotted down.
Baldwin remained reliable, establishing a 21-14 interval lead.
Stockport, glad of a breather after fading initially on a heavy pitch, rallied again after the break. A sustained spell of pressure on the hosts’ defence, who again repelled their guests repeatedly, earned a reward on 47 minutes and McGovern’s kick restored parity.
Northwich saved their best try until last though, one that earned a precious bonus-point, when Barber evaded despairing attempts to stop him after cutting a perfect line to collect Baldwin’s pass. Another successful conversion followed. Stockport, to their credit, were more a match for Blacks than they had been during the return in December. Stockport 15-34 Northwich: this season's previous meeting
But Northwich defending, at times desperate and occasionally brilliant, kept them at bay.
McGovern’s penalty with time running out increased the tension, but his teammates could not score a last-gasp match-winning try. It’s a feat managed by Manchester and Wilmslow since the turn of the year, but the Moss Farm men made of sterner stuff now.
More importantly, they’re closer still to securing a promotion play-off place too.
Northwich | Ridgway, Lapniewski, King, Dudley, Farley, Heywood, Balshaw, Richard Dale, Poste, Baldwin, Skinkis, Reilly, Barber, Lindsay, Du Randt Replacements Naylor, Fray, English Tries Richard Dale, Barber (2), Heywood Cons Baldwin (4)