CHESTER went into their Christmas break on a high with an impressive performance against Merseyside neighbours Liverpool-St Helens.
They started this North One League clash against an improving Saints side with great control, passion and an abundance of patience. LSH made Chester work for the ball in all areas of the game, but the first half saw Chester dominate in a fashion that delighted their supporters.
Chester got off to a good start with a try from Jim Lyle following 14 phases of powerful rugby finished off magnificently from a set move in open play which saw the flying Lyle skip over the line without a finger on him. Simon Verbickas added the extras.
Chester, who could be accused of inconsistency at times this season, were far from this as they powered their way upfield time after time, hardly giving LSH any chance of possession.
It was no surprise, following great forward pressure, to see Gavin Woods cross the line from 10 yards out with half the LSH pack hanging on his back. The extras again were added by Verbickas to make the score 14-0.
Chester collected three more points following an infringement from LSH. Verbickas slotted the kick to increase the lead.
After another attack Chester gathered the ball in the line-out and drove over for Gavin Taylor to score on the end of a driving maul.
In the early stages of the second half LSH found themselves back in the game. A clever return from a probing kick from Verbickas, which wasn't followed up properly by his colleagues, saw visiting winger Nick Royle round his man with ease to score a try which should never have happened.
The next 15 minutes saw the game change into a scrappy affair and tempers were lost by both sides as a host of penalties were awarded. It was disappointing for the home fans to see their side getting too involved with the LSH spoiling tactics.
LSH ended the scoring with 15 minutes left.
The last 15 minutes saw a number of yellow cards shown as the Chester pack lost their cool and allowed themselves to be upset by the continual LSH infringements.
Woods and Cottle were sent to the bin with five minutes left which put undue pressure on the pack which, although down to six men, worked tirelessly with the defence to keep LSH at bay.
The Walker Smith Way man-of-the-match was awarded to Verbickas who showed his class throughout the game.
Dolgellau Ladies 40, Chester Ladies 38
Chester were narrowly beaten in an exciting match in the North Wales League.
They could muster only 12 players, but the hosts sportingly agreed to play 12 themselves. Chester took an early lead when Tess Gardner scored a fine solo try, only for Dolgellau to hit back with two converted tries.
The Chester coach then read the riot act and made two positional changes which seemed to galvanise the visitors into action, with good running and handling space created for Rachel Smith to score a good try, converted by Leni Smith
Dolgellau responded with another score to extend their lead to 21-12 before Chester bounced back to Maria Herrero going over for a try converted by Smith.
Chester took the lead again when Gardner's try was converted by Smith and when Kirsty Marshall went over for an unconverted try the score became 31-21.
The home side scored first in the second half to close the gap and then scored again to regain the lead.
At this point Dolgellau tried hard to put the game to bed, but stout defence by Chester prevented this and eventually Chester worked their way up field and pressurised the Dolgellau line, forcing the home side to give away penalties.
A quickly-taken penalty passed to Smith and a reverse pass to Gardner ended with Gardner scoring wide with Smith adding the extras.
Chester thought they had nicked the game, but again disciplined forward power saw Dolgellau march downfield and score a converted try to win.
The next game is at Hare Lane against Caernarfon on January 2 at 2.15pm.
Helsby 25 Merseyside Police 21
HELSBY go into the Christmas break joint top of the league after another last gasp victory at the weekend.
A sluggish start to the game saw the visitors score an early converted try, which was shortly followed by a penalty. A combination of bad decisions and some bad handling didn't help Helsby who struggled to gain good field position against an organised defence.
Things went from bad to worse for Helsby when the visitors scored again on the stroke of half time to give them a commanding 15-0 lead at the break.
The loss of the influential Chris Johnson through injury made the task even harder, but an early Andy Rowlinson penalty opened Helsby's account for the afternoon, although this was shortly cancelled out by a penalty from the visitors.
With only 15 minutes left Helsby were given a lifeline when Rowlinson intercepted a loose pass and raced 80 yards to score and also convert his own try.
The gap was reduced to a point when, following good work by Gray and Merrill, John Williams used his strength to hold off three tackles and crash over near the posts, Rowlinson again converting.
With two minutes remaining Helsby kept the ball alive and it was spun out wide where fullback Paul Ryder had joined the line. He broke the first tackle and dummied the oncoming defence to score in the corner and sealed an unlikely victory for the home side.
Helsby's Frodsham Tandoori man-of-the-match was Jon Stubbs.
Helsby's next fixture will be a visit to Holmes Chapel on January 8.