Rochdale 17 Chester 19

A GRANDSTAND finish saw Chester maintain their excellent start to the North Two West season on Saturday with a narrow away win at a tough venue.

Coach Rob Foden saluted his players after they came out on top in an enthralling game, which was settled by Morne Bernado’s late try.

Foden said: ‘It is an excellent result. Not many teams are going to visit Rochdale this season and come away with a victory.

‘They are a well-drilled, disciplined team that do the basics well. To come away with a victory was testament to the hard work and desire to succeed shown by all 18 Chester players used.’

Hard work and desire was in short supply for Chester early on, however, as Rochdale’s centre burst through a gaping hole in the visitors’ defence to score out wide.

From the restart, Chester began to exert themselves and steadily worked their way into the game.

They got their first points on the board in the 36th minute when Matt Sheen picked the ball up from the base of the scrum and fed Tom Foden, who set up Sean Green to take the ball at speed and crash over in the corner.

Chester quickly increased their lead when they converted a penalty to make the score 8-5 approaching half-time. But in the final minute of the first period, Rochdale exerted some pressure and scored a try to go 10-8 up.

After the restart, Chester were reduced to 14 men after some ill disciplined chat to the referee and they suffered a further blow when they lost leading try-scorer Simon Love to injury.

For the next 10 minutes, the visitors came under severe pressure and went 17-8 down when they conceded a converted try.

But on returning to full strength, Chester began to play with more commitment and Foden reduced the deficit by kicking a penalty.

With pack leader Gareth Martin urging the forwards to greater efforts, Chester began to dominate and pulled to within three points of their opponents as Foden kicked a penalty with five minutes remaining.

When Chester were awarded another penalty in the dying minutes, Foden had the option to kick the points and square the game. But instead he took a quick tap penalty and went on a mazy run out wide before passing to Bernado, who touched down to give the visitors a thrilling victory.

Chester host Winnington Park at Hare Lane tomorrow (3pm).

The 2nds should be tested away at Fylde, while the 3rds will be looking to open their account away against Whitchurch.