LEAGUE duty proved a more testing affair than last week's cup stroll for Crewe and Nantwich on Saturday.
While the 62-0 Power-gen Junior Vase win over Hessle was a refreshing change, Manchester Wanderers were always likely to be a tougher nut to crack in the South Lancs/Cheshire League Division Two.
It proved the case as the South Cheshire side were made to fight every inch of the way to secure an 8-7 win and stay in second place.
Crewe opened the scoring when they took play up the field from their own 25metre line, the ball going through numerous hands and finished off with a burst of speed by Harry Harrison for him to cross the opposition try line.
Soon after, Danny Lynch landed a penalty to put Crewe eight ahead, but then the visitors replied with a thrilling try when their full-back jinked his way through despairing tackles to score. The sub-sequent conversion left the game poised at 8-7 at the break.
The fact that there was no further scoring does not tell the tale of the second-half. Both sides worked hard to fashion opportunities but defensive tackling of the highest quality prevented chances from turning into points.
A dramatic finale saw Manchester, just two points behind Crewe at the start of play, smack the crossbar with a last-gasp penalty kick. The alert Crewe defence cleared the danger and they took the points.
A Crewe spokesman said: 'Both teams realised the crucial nature of the encounter even though the halfway stage of the season is only reached next week.
'It would be hard to say that either side deserved a win but perhaps our drive and inter-passing, especially in the forwards, kept us in front. Even right at the end Manchester were literally inches from snatching victory.
'Congratulations to both sides for a splendid game, unmarred by any foul play and appreciated by any connoisseur of the rugby union game.'
Crewe and Nantwich seconds beat Hoylake 39-3, the thirds lost 22-14 at Bowden, and the fourths were defeated at Lymm. This Saturday, Crewe play Ormskirk at the Vagrants Sports Ground, Newcastle Road, Willaston, 2.15pm.
Crewe have been drawn to play away against Gosforth in the fifth-round of the Power-gen Junior Vase.