CHESTER missed a last-kick chance to snatch a dramatic victory in a thrilling North One derby in Wirral.
Simon Verbickas, who moments earlier had shaved the post with a drop goal attempt, stepped up for what was by his standards a simple penalty opportunity, only to put the ball wide of the posts.
Chester failed to make an early impression at Upper Park, where the hosts opened the scoring on 12 minutes from a scrappy kick ahead, and Chester were punished for not falling on the ball by the Park fly-half Peter Hart who scored the simplest of tries, converted by Ian Kennedy.
Almost immediately, it looked like Chester had woken up to force their way upfield, and they were awarded a penalty which Verbickas converted to make the score 7-3 to Park.
Chester, although not performing to their best, were the side interested in playing the rugby. But they were making too many unforced errors and Park, using their spoiling tactics and continual kicking, made Chester's attempt at stamping their authority on the game very difficult.
It was no surprise that Chester gave a penalty away to allow Kennedy to convert, making the score 10-3, and Chester were frustrated and over-eager due to the mounting errors.
In the 22nd minute, Park added a freak try to their score. A high ball was launched and, under pressure, wing Jim Lyle rose high but saw the ball hit him square on the head, only to land in a Park player's hand to go over for another simple try converted by Kennedy.
Yet again Park were awarded a penalty for lazy indiscipline by the struggling Chester side. Kennedy stepped up and slotted the goal with ease to make the score 20-3 to Park.
Chester woke up, started to put phases together and were rewarded with a Lyle try in the corner following some neat inter-plays.
At the break, director of rugby Steve Dorrington and boss Rob Foden again had to read the riot act to Chester, which this season has usually worked. But just after the restart, Park punished them with a well-worked try.
Chester responded well and started to look a class above Park. Following great phase play and powerful running, the impressive Steve Burke crossed for a converted try.
The visitors were now in total control when, yet again, they gave a stupid penalty away which Kennedy dispatched to the corner of the pitch, where the Park pack crossed for an unconverted try from a lineout.
Chester now found themselves 15 points adrift but continued to impress and were rewarded with a converted try by Verbickas on 64 minutes to make the score 30-22.
Four minutes later, Chester crossed again through captain Colin Ellis and Verbickas converted to cut the gap to just one point with 12 minutes left.
Almost straight from the restart, Jason Goulding crossed only for the referee to disallow the try, claiming a Park player touched down first.
Luck was against Chester again when another try by Goulding was disallowed due to what the referee saw as a forward pass, which was clearly backward.
Then came the Verbickas miss which compounded Chester's misery
The Walker Smith Way man-of-the-match award went to Burke.
Congleton 18 Helsby 23: Helsby continued their recent good league form when a last-minute score secured a hard-fought victory.
The home side started strongly and took an early lead with a penalty, and this was increased when they scored a good try in the corner.
Two Andy Rowlinson penalties put Helsby back into the game, and they took the lead when Bob Merrill made a good break in midfield and had Rowlinson in support to take the pass and race under the posts. The conversion put the visitors in control.
Shortly after the restart, Helsby extended their lead when good hands freed winger Chris McKean, who used his pace to squeeze in at the corner.
The home side refused to give in and reduced the deficit with a penalty. And with Helsby down to 14 men due to a sin-binning, Congleton used the extra advantage to score and convert and the game was tied at 18-18.
With less than a minute to go, it was left to captain John Williams who collected the ball 30 yards out and broke through the Congleton defence. He had the strength and speed to go over, winning the game for Helsby.
Helsby's Frodsham Tandoori MoM was McKean for his strong running and well-taken try.