Chester Gladiators suffered their first league defeat since the opening day of the season in a hard fought clash with local rivals Northwich Stags. However, despite the 22-10 defeat Chester moved to the top of RL Merit League sponsored by Kukri Sports table as fellow pacesetters Mancunians RL also lost.
The Gladiators, who headed into the game on the back of four straight wins, handed a debut to recent signing Josh Costello but paid the price for a slow start as Northwich struck first after just 2 minutes. The home side took advantage of some slack defending to score from close range and took an early 6-0 lead.
Chester began to work their way back into the game with the Gladiators forwards making plenty of yards but another defensive lapse allowed Northwich to extend their advantage on the half hour mark. The home side further exposed Chester's defensive frailties by adding another try after 36 minutes to take an 18-0 lead into the break.
The Gladiators started the second half brightly and enjoyed their majority of possession, however with half backs Kelvin Bryan and Daniel Harvey unavailable, they were unable to find a way through the Northwich defence. The pressure finally told after 58 minutes when fullback Simon Quinn squeezed home in the corner to open the Gladiators account.
Chester sensed a comeback and poured forward in search of another score with forwards Rich Owen and Benji Marsh creating havoc. Some good work by scrum half Sam Broadbent looked to have created a second try for Quinn but he spilled the ball with the line at his mercy. Northwich regained possession and worked their way up field to score a match clinching try in the 68th minute.
Chester continued to try and find a way back into the game but the home side were able to withstand some heavy pressure until the final minute of the game when Captain Martin Cormack touched down to restore some pride for the Gladiators. The Gladiators bid farewell to Dan Tyers after the game as he returns to Australia but impressive showings from debutant Josh Costello and 17-year-old Alec Read underlined the depth of talent currently available to Chester.
The Gladiators will be looking to get back to winning ways this Saturday when they welcome Bury Broncos to Hare Lane. Admission to the match is free and kick-off is at 2.00 PM whilst the Gladiators U12s are also in action this weekend when they travel to Lymm to take on Cheshire Cats on Sunday. The Gladiators junior section are always keen to hear youngsters of all ages interested in trying Rugby League and more information is available from Chairman Jim Green on 07719 648724 or via www.chestergladiators.com.
Chester Gladiators: Simon Quinn, Richard Hopkins, Alexis Wilkie, Lee Quinn, Andy Vaughan, Martin Cormack (Captain), Sam Broadbent, Dave Thomas, Dan Tyers, Benji Marsh, Josh Costello, Sam Martin (Substitutes: Sam Wright, Alec Read, Stuart Davies, Tom Hayden, Rich Owen, Pete Last, Ben Edwards)
Tries: Simon Quinn (58) & Martin Cormack (80)
Conversions: Sam Broadbent (1/2)
Chester 3-2-1: Sam Broadbent, Rich Owen & Alexis Wilkie