NORTHWICH came close to losing their unbeaten record on a rock-hard pitch on Saturday.
They had knocked Burnage out of the EDF Senior Vase and found their hosts thought they had a point to prove.
Mike Penny decided to rest Jamie Miritana whose Twickenham performance prompted the Cheshire selectors to include him and Steve Campbell in this season's county squad.
Dave Khanyile flew back to South Africa last week but promised to be back for Northwich's elevation into next season's North West Two.
All of which meant Rick Smith moved from centre to his preferred back row position, a recall for winger Steve Galbraith and a senior debut for 2nd XV centre John Keegan.
After only four minutes full back Adam Bown collected a clever kick ahead from Gaz Davies to score in the corner. Gary Bell missed the conversion. Two minutes later Northwich gave away a penalty and from the ensuing lineout a Burnage catch and drive resulted in an unconverted try to level the score.
At this stage Northwich took control and further unconverted tries came from the evergreen prop Jan Cartman and pacey winger Andrew Chubb.
With half-time approaching, the Blacks relaxed their grip and Burnage scored a flowing backs try and the easy conversion brought the home side right back into the game.
Vulyol Pasiya and Dean Thompson replaced Jed Hill and Graham Robinson but instead of giving fresh impetus Northwich began to look battle weary and midway through the second half the Burnage stand-off stroked an easy drop goal to level the scores.
Northwich were then on the back foot and defended resolutely as Burnage made every attempt to secure victory. With the game in injury time, North-wich rallied and drove deep into the Burnage half where their backline were caught offside. Bell, who had been off target with his earlier attempts, coolly converted to win the match.
Northwich are at Dukinfield on Saturday.
Their 3rds disposed of Holmes Chapel at Moss Farm 58-17 (Joel Baker 2, Chris Dale, Barry McNulty, Ian Haddock, Mark James, Toby Kineally, Peter Naylor, Tom Newport, Ryan Moulds; Baker 4 cons).
* Will Burgess, Mike Morten and Rob Burchell won the major 1st XV awards at Winnington Park's annual captain's dinner on Friday.
Injuries and suspensions were reflected in an overall disappointing playing record, said skipper Ben Barton, himself sidelined with injury.
Coach Mark Warr said narrow defeats early on had affected overall performance, but a good run since New Year had beaten off relegation.
Chairman Mick McCafferty made presentations to Burgess, player of the year; Morten, players' player of the year; and to top try scorer Burchell.
After an outstanding season Harry Stubbs won all three awards for the 2nds, for whom Gavin Kaye was declared most improved player.
Player of the year and top try scorer in the 3rds was Chris Morrison with Andy Howell winning the players' player accolade.
Richard Armstrong was both junior and colts player of the season, with the junior colts awards going to Ryan McKibben and Andrew Evans.