Ruskin Park 19, Crewe & Nantwich 18: COMPLACENT Crewe and Nantwich squandered a promising lead to lose by a single point a Ruskin Park on Saturday.
The South Cheshire outfit played to their potential at times against the St Helens side, but periods of sloppy play proved fatal. Three defeats so far this season have seriously damaged their Division Two promotion hopes already and, with so many games going right to the wire, further lapses of concentration are not an option.
The hosts went quickly into the lead after only five minutes when their scrum-half waltzed through a stationary Crewe defence to cross the line.
But Crewe hit back with a couple of well-crafted tries, which saw Danny Lynch and Lee Gray both get on the scoresheet. A Matt Farr penalty gave his side a 15-7 advantage at the turnaround.
A different Crewe re-emerged after the break and allowed the lead to be snatched away. Ruskin bagged two tries to go ahead, and although a Farr penalty brought Crewe to within a point, and inability convert chances foiled a comeback.
A Crewe spokesman said: 'Promotion seems a distant prospect but some consolation is that the losses were by a total margin of only five points over the three games.
'Ruskin just about deserved their victory for we had two disastrous periods of 10 minutes each at the beginning of both halves, when concentration and commitment were practically nonexistent. But considering the loss of four seasoned players, our young side must not be disheartened.'
Crewe and Nantwich take on un-beaten division leaders Sale at The Vagrants Sports Ground, Willaston on Saturday (3pm).
Crewe seconds lost 39-22 at Broughton Park, with tries from Craig Rondles, David Germaine, James Eardley and Carl Talcack, and a conversion by Rob Peters. The thirds lost 29-5 to Old Bedians, leaving the fourths as the only winners.
Rob George was brought out of retirement for their clash, and he scored a hat-trick in the 20-19 victory.
Sandbach 13 Northwich 13: Draw specialists Sandbach were at it again when honours were even with neighbours Northwich on Saturday.
The Bradwall Road outfit have now managed three draws this season, highly unusual for rugby union, but they were grateful for any return at all from a strong Northwich side.
Tim Oakes and his men have been disappointed to share the spoils with Hoylake and Vagabonds previously, but they had to fight back from behind and survive a late penalty scare to get a point on Saturday.
Vice-captain Tom Hughes said: 'We stole a point rather than earned it. I don't know where our equalising try came from and we found it tough going.
'But it is the mark of a decent side to grind a result out of a poor performance. I had only played in one draw in my life before, now it's three this season!'
An injury to prop Gareth Caen early on meant a reshuffle which knocked Sandbach out of their stride. Despite two Lee Pickles penalties, they were 13-6 down with five minute to play.
But Hughes charged through and fed Tim Jones for a try, and Pickles held his nerve with the conversion to level. Northwich missed a penalty in the dying seconds to win the game.
Sandbach seconds won their first league game of the season, 38-22 at West Park St Helens on Saturday. Andy Fyffe weighed in with a drop-goal, while tries came from Richard Pickford, Mike Eggleston, Mike Huss and Andy Rollings, who also bagged a hat-trick of conversions and penalties.
Skipper Martin Beecher said: 'We finally clicked and played how we should have played all season. Andy Rolling was outstanding, and I am sure we can keep this going now.'
Sandbach thirds lost 26-10 at Moore, with a try and a penalty from Geraint Pritchard and a Mark Read conversion, while Sandbach Vets beat Whit-church fourths 39-5.
Youngsters Dan Brough, Tom Herd, Adam Wakefield, Ross Sutherland and Tom Whalley represented a Cheshire A side which beat Lancashire A 30-17, while Tim Jervis and Matt Thackray played in Cheshire B's 17-3 defeat to Lancashire B. Jason Hancock scored a try and conversion as Sandbach U11s beat Lymm U11s 7-0.