The match was played at Wrexham RUFC, serving as a curtain raiser to the Super League clash between Crusaders and Wigan Warriors at the Racecourse Ground, and attracted a large and enthusiastic crowd.
Gladiators coaches Declan Foy and Scott Hughes were forced into a reshuffle due to the absences of Martin Cormack and Russ Clarke and drafted Gareth Coy, Mike Davies and Alexis Wilkie into the squad alongside debutant Josh Morris. The visitors named a strong squad which included several England Lionhearts representatives.
In sweltering heat, both sides started the match cautiously and it took until the 18th minute for the deadlock to be broken. Chester shifted the ball out to the left hand side and found Wilkie who stepped between two defenders and grounded the ball to open the scoring.
The visitors were stung into action and replied after 25 minutes through Wayne Bullough who shrugged off two tackles to power his way over the line. The Riversiders then added a second try a few minutes later through the impressive Martin Cheetham to take a 10-4 lead into the break.
The Gladiators started the second period brightly, shrugging off the loss of player-coach Foy and Wilkie to injury to score the first try after the restart. Paul Foster looked to have blown an opportunity when he scuffed his attempted grubber kick but the ball evaded the Wigan defence and Foster pounced on the loose ball to claim his first try of the campaign.
Wigan hit back with a try from Darren Lindley to restore their lead but Chester responded with a quick fire brace of tries to set up a grandstand finish. Chris Blythe reacted well to ground a bouncing ball and Andy Vaughan followed up with a fine solo effort, sprinting 50 metres to leave the Riversiders defence trailing in his wake and put the Gladiators 18-16 in front.
However, the visitors replied almost immediately when the Chester defence was harshly penalised and Scott Whittle powered over the line for Wigan. The Riversiders then all but secured the victory following some quick thinking from Alex Graham who took advantage of a tiring defence to score next to the posts.
Chester could have been forgiven for wilting in the heat but the Gladiators regrouped and had the last word as prop Jim Green broke clear before sending an inside pass to Dom Boyd for a consolation try in the final minute.
Mike Davies was named as the Bartletts Solicitors Man of the Match for Chester with Rob Massam and Green also receiving honourable mentions. Chester must now prepare themselves for what promises to be a tough local derby against Crewe & Nantwich Steamers on Saturday 29th May .