Chester produced their performance of the season so far on Saturday to win an epic battle with National League 2 North leaders Hinckley 12-8 on a mudbath Hare Lane pitch.

It was a victory built upon a strong set-piece, tireless work in the loose and a well-organised defence.

The character of the match was dictated by the weather and the pitch.

Heavy rain in the lead up meant the surface swiftly churned up and the ball soon became hard to control.

The mud rendered both teams barely distinguishable, knock-ons occurred with an almost inevitable regularity, and kicking from hand was perilous.

But, despite the dreadful conditions, Chester became only the third side this season to beat Hinckley.

Action from the gruelling clash between Chester and Hinckley

They left it late, however.

After a bright start from the table-toppers, Chester took the lead in the ninth minute when a powerful drive from the pack allowed Alick Croft to cross for a try that James Robins converted.

Back came Hinckley and, after Robins narrowly missed touch with a long penalty kick, they used quick ball to find a gap in the home defence that Mitch Lamb exploited for a 19th-minute unconverted try.

Chester found it difficult to exit from their own half for the remainder of the opening period.

However, when the Hinckley speedsters managed to beat a defender, they were immediately shut out.

In addition, the Chester pack was becoming increasingly dominant at the scrum.

Kyle Joseph, pictured in action on Saturday, was named the National League 2 North player of the week

But a narrow 7-5 lead at half-time was never going to be enough.

And that was underlined when Hinckley twice went close to scoring following dangerous breaks by their outside backs.

Chester, once more, could not get out of their own half, so there was a certain inevitability when they conceded a penalty that Hinckley kicked to go 8-7 in front.

Given the exhausting work the Chester defence had done, and given the visitors’ seemingly greater attacking potential out wide, it would not have been surprising if further scores had followed.

But it was not to be.

The Chester defence refused to buckle, and the pack asserted its set-piece dominance, stealing more line-out ball and winning scrum penalties.

The delighted, but mud-spattered, Chester players in the dressing room afterwards

And that foundation led to what proved to be the winning try in the 77th minute.

Chester drove a line-out from 15 metres out after being awarded a penalty.

The pack then carried the ball on through a series of irresistible pick and goes and rucks, which eventually allowed Andy Baston to touch down in the corner.

Robins was unable to add the extras.

But it mattered little as Chester held on for a superb and deserved success that means they will head to Macclesfield this Saturday for their final league fixture of the year in high spirits.

Meannwhile, what a week it has been at Helsby RUFC!

Phil Arkell touches down for Helsby on Saturday

Former England and British & Irish Lions prop Gareth Chilcott attended the club’s president’s lunch before the first team won their top-of-the-table clash at Carrington 21-10 to move one point clear at the summit of North West League Division Three South.

A tight first half was poor by Helsby’s standards and they trailed at the break after the hosts kicked a penalty late on in the period.

The visitors then found themselves down to 13 men after suffering multiple penalties and yellow

But, instead of folding, Helsby started to produce some characteristic free-flowing rugby that eventually led to tries from captain Chris Goggin, Phil Arkell and Alistair Grant.

Arkell, Matty Burns and Josh Warburton were the stars of yet another brilliant team performance.

Helsby return to action at home to Village Spartans on January 6.