Northwich 17 Leigh 32
A superb individual performance from Leigh's Paul Wilcock destroyed any hopes of a 'Blacks' home win at Moss Farm on Saturday afternoon.
The talented fullback scored three tries and as many conversions to break the spirits of a still injury ridden Northwich outfit who now face a must win away fixture at Tyldesley on Saturday week.
They will then have a welcome Christmas respite when they hope to regroup and return their key players to fitness before facing New Brighton at home on January 5.
Even with their injury list Northwich have a talented squad but they are lacking the confidence to play as a team. This was again the story on Saturday as they continually forced the play and invariably took the wrong options. They started well but slack tackling and marking allowed Wilcock to grab the limelight and score two first half tries. The first came after 10 minutes when he cut through to score between the posts. He converted his try and only just missed converting his second following his blind side break 10 minutes later. He then kicked a penalty and a cheeky Steve Peacock drop goal gave the visitors an 18 point lead before Northwich captain Steve Campbell kicked a penalty with the last play of the first half.
After the break matters went from bad to worse when Gary Bell departed the field of play following an earlier knock to his knee. Scott Hayes, who had replaced injured Richard Dale 5 minutes into the first half, took over the stand off duties and although he played with flair the 'blacks' leaked two further tries. The first came from number eight Simon Barton which Wilcok converted and then two minutes later Wilcock picked up a loose ball to score his hat trick which he coolly converted. At 3-32 down with 25 minutes still on the clock a battering was on the cards but Northwich man of the match Sam Naylor had a different view as he turned the game into the 'blacks' favour. Naylor, with perfect timing, intercepted a Leigh attack to score between the sticks, Hayes converted and then following a Naylor 'catch and drive' Hayes converted the resulting Pete Pattenden try to put Northwich right back into the proceedings.
For the last ten minutes it was all Northwich as the Leigh pack tired and although there was no further score the 'blacks' at least left the field with some semblance of pride and confidence. Kiwi James Gwynne also shone for Northwich and the pack overall played well.
Northwich: Cartman, Fred Taylor, Davey, Simpson, Heath, Naylor, Pattenden, Smith, Steve Taylor, Bell (Johnson 50 min), Dale (Hayes 5 min), Keegan, Gwynne, Campbell (C), Bown.
On Saturday the 1stXV will be supporting the unbeaten Northwich 2ndXV when they take on Tyldesley in the Halbro Cup KO 2pm. It is Presidents' Day when the great and good of the past and will be at Moss Farm to chew the fat and entertain our sponsors from 1pm onwards.