WINNINGTON went to the top of North Two West on Saturday after winning on their first visit to Bowdon in more than 40 years.
With key players including Sam Barton, Andy Barnes and Simon Jennions on the injury list and on a soggy pitch which wasn't likely to allow Winnington to play the expansive rugby the fans are accustomed to, this was a fixture that might have stunted Park's promotion push. But it was the strong defence which saw them collect two points.
The Bowdon team, which was made up of French, South Africans, Australians and the odd UK resident, were desperate to get back into winning ways after a heavy loss to Stockport last week. But any attacking play they put together was met by resolute tackling from Park or undone by a handling error.
It was a similar story for Winnington and with no score at half-time, the fans were pondering the value of their en-trance fee.
The hosts were first to score when, midway into the second half, their fly-half Kotze slotted a penalty when Mark Patterson was caught offside. But their lead lasted only three minutes.
From a deep kick-off, Park put pressure on Bowdon and centre Steve Jones went on a jinking run, which was only stopped by a high tackle on the opposition 22. Barton knocked the penalty over to square the score.
With ten minutes to go, Winnington put together the best play of the game.
The move started in their own half and passed through numerous pairs of hands before Matt Shilabeer was stopped just short of the line by the scrambling Bowdon defence.
The remainder of the game was played in the Bowdon half, and Bowdon's inability to clear their lines was their downfall. With three minutes to go, hat-trick hero last week Ben Barton dropped a Wilkinsonesque goal to give the visitors a match-winning lead.
'It wasn't the most exciting game of rugby but with key players out through injury, it was just important to get the points. I was particularly pleased with the youngsters who showed great maturity against an experienced multinational team,' said coach Mark Warr.
Winnington host Fleetwood on Saturday (2.30pm).
CHESHIRE Under 16s had two convincing wins, 27-5 and 56-0, over Staffs on Sunday and included in the county squad are nine Winnington players, namely Will Winter, Andrew Hill, Stefan Downey, Jake Emmitt, Leon Driscoll, Michael Morten, Tom Robinson, Ben Elliot and Richard Armstrong.
Burrows Hill hosts two games against North Wales on Sunday (2pm).