WATERLOO are by now sick of the sight of Northwich.
Northwich 23 Firwood Waterloo 20
Their players’ heads were in hands at the sound of the referee’s final whistle, while their opponents’ arms were held aloft.
It could easily have been the other way around.
But then there’s Richard Dale.
From an absorbing contest’s final play, and after a spell of mounting pressure on the visitors’ line, he stretched to touch down a decisive try.
A margin between these rivals was that fine.
Nick Baldwin’s conversion added gloss, and condemned the visitors to a third successive defeat against Martin Poste’s men.
They can’t say they weren’t warned, and the director of rugby’s words felt prophetic at full-time.
In an interview with the Guardian earlier this week, he said pride would in part fuel his players’ desire to beat illustrious opponents.
He predicted they wouldn’t be daunted.
It’s perhaps true too that they wouldn’t have won this game a month ago.
Back then, they couldn’t have withstood an onslaught they faced from Waterloo in the second-half.
The visitors dominated possession and territory, scoring two converted tries, and yet somehow that still felt like an underwhelming return for how long they spent attacking.
Time and again they were repelled by a gold-clad line of tacklers.
It meant a 20-16 lead, established with little more than 10 minutes left, seemed slender.
Like Northwich, they defended it ferociously.
But in the final reckoning, and like they had done in last season’s corresponding fixture, they conceded one penalty too many.
And it was from the last set-piece of the afternoon that a delighted Dale darted over.
The same player had opened the scoring on 11 minutes with a trademark piece of opportunism.
A handling error by Waterloo wing Jacob Allen, who failed to gather a pass fired towards him on halfway, saw the ball run loose.
Will Du Randt reacted quickly to keep it in play, and offloaded smartly to Dale who scorched to the line.
Baldwin converted from out wide.
Waterloo’s Darragh O’Brien responded with a penalty-kick before a moment of ill-discipline from the full-back proved costly.
He was punished for dissent, gifting to Baldwin an opportunity he took to kick for three more points.
The visitors were similarly efficient though after Robin Houghton was shown a yellow card, amassing 10 points at the start of the second-half while he watched from the sin bin.
O’Brien landed a penalty, then converted Guy Byatt’s try.
Baldwin also slotted a penalty to level, and repeated the trick to make it 16-13 on the hour.
Momentum swung back in Waterloo’s direction when they earned a reward for a prolonged examination of Northwich’s defence to edge in front once more.
O’Brien’s extras compelled Blacks to score again, and that man Dale duly delivered.
Northwich | Maddocks, Gough, Ridgway, Heywood, Ensor, Naylor, Lindsay, Chris Dale, Poste, Baldwin, Houghton, Underhill, Richard Dale, Du Randt, Barber Replacements Bennett, James, Skinkis Tries Richard Dale (2) Cons Baldwin (2) Pens Baldwin (3)