Chester RUFC head into the final game of the season as one of five teams at risk of relegation after a narrow 26-20 defeat at home to rivals Caldy.
With the fate of Huddersfield and Broadstreet already sealed, one of Chester, Sale, Sandal, South Leicester or Tynedale will follow them through the National League Two North trapdoor.
Chester’s fifth defeat in six matches leaves them a point better off than Sale in the final relegation spot, although the Heywood Road club have a game in hand.
Jon Aby’s side visit Preston Grasshoppers this weekend in the knowledge that a victory will be enough to ensure survial but a draw or defeat will leave them at the mercy of results elsewhere.
There was a familiar tale at Hare Lane last weekend where Chester were competitive and looked capable of taking the win but ultimately fell short.
The match began with the customary exchange of penalties before Chester went 10-3 ahead.
Caldy winger Nick Royle inexplicably chose to run back a kick from behind his own goal line when the safety of a dropout beckoned. Sean Green turned the ball over and it was moved quickly right and then left before Harrison Vare appeared in midfield off his wing and stepped inside two defenders to score under the posts with Rhys Hayes converting.
It took the visitors only six minutes to level the game, recovering a grubber kick into the Chester 22 and stretching the home defence to send Royle over with Gav Robers adding the extras.
Chester moved back in front on 25 minutes when Ross White took the ball at a lineout and the pack drove over the line for an unconverted try but Caldy hit straight back, winning the restart and taking advantage of a missed tackle for Ben Eaves to score and Roberts to convert and two penalties for not rolling away allowed the Wirral side to move into a 23-15 lead at the break.
Facing the wind in the second half, Chester built a series of patient attacks and were rewarded on 55 minutes when quick hands put Vare in for his second of the game to make the score 23-20.
With Caldy’s scrum in full retreat, it seemed as though the game was within Chester’s grasp but it was not to be and Caldy knocked over a penalty on 62 minutes to edge six points clear.
Chester threatened to snatch something at the death when Guy Ford made a 20 metre broke but a slow pass and some resilient Caldy defence snuffed the chance out.
Emphatic win wraps up title for Helsby
Helsby secured the Division Five South title with an emphatic 68-0 win at Congleton.
With nearest challengers Winnington Park three points behind, Helsby had to win the game and made a storming start to go 28-0 up inside 15 minutes.
Alex Walker was the star man with 38 points the double is now in sight for Helsby who take on Crosby St Mary’s in the final of the Lighting and Building Services Plate at Rossendale on May 7.