Northwich 5 Altrincham Kersal 9
NORTHWICH could not repeat their cup heroics against a determined Altrincham Kersal side bolstered by several returning first-choice players.
The visitors, who had ex-Ireland international flanker Dylan O’Grady among their ranks, were desperate to gain league revenge for the previous weekend’s EDF Intermediate Cup defeat – and that they did, but only after a hard-fought battle in wet conditions against an injury-ravaged Northwich side.
The Blacks lost Matt Bebbington, Mike Dale, Stacey Hosking and Ric Smith before the game and coach Kevin Greaves was forced to play back-row player Sam Naylor at fly-half.
The match began as expected with Kersal enjoying the early exchanges and James Nettleton nudged the visitors ahead with a penalty.
Northwich were continually put under pressure but it was only until the stroke of half-time that Kersal scored again, thanks to another Nettleton penalty.
After the break, Altrincham continued where they left off and went 9-0 up with another Nettleton penalty after the Blacks were marched back 10 yards for dissent.
This fired up the hosts and after ten minutes of pressure, the visitors buckled and Naylor forced himself over the line for the only try of the afternoon.
Both defences held firm for the rest of the game and Kersal took exactly what they had come for back to South Manchester.
Next week the Blacks, now sixth , will look to bounce back at second-from-bottom New Brighton (2.30pm ko).
Northwich have been drawn away to Wakefield-based Sandal in the second round for the EDF Intermediate Cup. The tie will be played on November 22.
Other scores: Stockport 2nds 41 Northwich 2nds 3; Winnington Park 3rds 36 Northwich 3rds 8; Northwich U15s 0 Sandbach U15s 39.