Chester Gladiators beat Wigan Riversiders 30-22 in a thrilling encounter at Hare Lane to bring their regular season campaign to a winning end.
Having already secured second place in the RL Merit League sponsored by Kukri Sports table, the Gladiators were eager to ensure that they headed into the play-offs on a winning note but they were pushed all the way by a tenacious Wigan outfit.
The opening exchanges saw some strong running and some equally strong defence from both teams but it was the home side who struck first after 16 minutes. Stand-in fullback Harry Broadbent collected a short pass and broke through the defensive line to score his first try of the season.
Chester extended their advantage on 26 minutes through second row forward Dave Doneo following some good work by stand-off Sam Broadbent. Broadbent flicked an inside ball to Doneo who shook off three Wigan defenders before reaching out to score to put the Gladiators 10-0 in front.
The visitors regrouped in a bid to find a way back into the game and when Gladiators winger Ben Edwards was sent to the sin bin for obstruction the Riversiders spotted their opportunity. Wigan crossed twice in the space of five minutes to leave Chester trailing 12-10 at the break.
Chester started the second half brightly but paid the price for poor ball retention when the Riversiders moved further in front on 54 minutes. However, the Gladiators were determined to preserve their unbeaten home record and hit back almost immediately with 3 tries in the space of seven minutes.
Benji Marsh showed great strength to power his way over the line in the 56th minute before centre Rob Massam, who was this week named as the competitions Player of the Month, put the Gladiators back in front with a try just a minute later and Harry Broadbent completed the turnaround after 62 minutes with his 2nd try of the game.
The visitors refused to give in and crossed in the 72nd minute to leave the Gladiators holding on to a slender 24-22 advantage. But the final word went to man of the match Massam who showed great pace and power to score his 14th try of the season and wrap up the victory in the 78th minute.
The Gladiators must now wait until next weekend to discover who they will play in the first round of the play-offs on either Saturday 7th or Sunday 8th August with the North West final taking place a week later. Full details will be announced on the club website www.chestergladiators.com as soon as they are available.
Chester Gladiators: Harry Broadbent, Dave Beddows, Elliott Pointer, Rob Massam, Ben Edwards, Paul Foster, Sam Broadbent, Rich Owen, Sam Edgar, Steve Sandbach, Dave Doneo, Sam Martin, Martin Cormack (Alec Read, Rich Hopkins, Andy Hill, Sam Philp, Chris Young, Stuart Davies, Benji Marsh)
Tries: Harry Broadbent (16 & 62), Dave Doneo (26), Benji Marsh (55) & Rob Massam (57 & 78)
Conversions: Sam Broadbent (3/6)
Chester 3-2-1: Rob Massam, Sam Broadbent & Rich Owen