Chester Gladiators overcame local rivals Crewe & Nantwich Steamers 32-16 in a bruising Co-operative Rugby League Conference encounter at The Barony on Saturday.
In wet conditions handling was always likely to prove difficult and both sides struggled to build any momentum in the early stages however it was the home side who opened the scoring after 12 minutes through towering prop Dan Stubbs. Chester regrouped and levelled the scores when stand-in hooker Jim Green linked with Chris Blythe who stepped inside two defenders before racing clear to claim his second try of the season.
The Gladiators then hit the front courtesy of a fantastic try from Rob Massam. The in-form centre showed plenty of pace and power to evade three defenders and the touchline before scoring under the posts. However, a momentary lapse of concentration in the Chester defence allowed Crewe to respond with a try from close range to tie the scores at 12-12 at the half-time interval.
Chester started the second period brightly and a short pass from Chris Pape found Ash Owen who burst through the defensive line to score on 42 minutes. The home side then suffered a further blow as tempers flared and Reece Burley was dismissed for head butting Gladiators winger Daniel Cooke.
The Gladiators immediately capitalised on their numerical advantage with Massam grabbing his second try of the game and quickly following up with another trademark finish to seal his hat-trick and put Chester into a commanding 22-12 lead.
To their credit the home side stemmed the flow and worked hard in defence to prevent any further tries and claimed a deserved consolation try on 72 minutes but any hopes of an unlikely comeback were undone when Massam claimed a smart kick to the corner by Pape before grounding the ball to score his fourth try of the match and ensure that Chester retained the Cheshire Challenge Trophy.
Massam was a stand-out performer for the Gladiators and received the Bartletts Solicitors Man of the Match award but the Chester forwards received significant praise for their tireless efforts in attack and defence. Next up for the Gladiators is a home fixture against Blackpool Sea Eagles on Saturday 5th June at Hare Lane, home of Chester RUFC, which will kick-off at 2.30 PM.