NORTHWICH were in celebratory mood on Saturday when they insured the win to retain their South Lancs and Cheshire League Second Division status.

The large crowd, which included John Blower who had secured a special pass from the spinal injuries unit at Southport, witnessed an emphatic victory against a struggling but defiant Warrington outfit.

It was the kind of performance that encourages optimism and Northwich believe they will not be fighting the drop again next time.

Warrington had come bearing gifts and, before the kick off, Dave Roughly, the former England centre and current Warrington president, handed over a cheque for the John Blower Fund to the tune of £5,000.

They desperately needed to beat Northwich to avoid the ever-increasing prospect of going down themselves.

Northwich knew the importance of the encounter and regardless of what Warrington are doing for John, they were in no mood to do any favours on the pitch.

Director of Rugby Steve Wood and coach Barry James had done the preparation work and it was a determined, steely-eyed Rob Heath who walked his team calmly on to the Moss Farm surface.

It proved to be the calm before the storm as two teams battered into each other in a desperate attempt to gain the upper hand. Both defences held firm and bone-crunching tackle after tackle delayed the first score.

It was Northwich full-back Huw Jones who held the key to Warrington's downfall. His mesmeric runs, often from deep in defence, unlocked the door to Warrington's try line. Jones played a part in all the home side's points, beginning with a penalty in front of the sticks.

Five minutes later, a dancing solo effort from Jones saw him swerve his way under the posts. He converted his own try.

Warrington threw themselves forward after the resumption and a slick three-quarter move broke the North-wich defence and the conversion heightened the tension.

Northwich responded magnificently. They carried the ball well and slowly but surely ground down the visitors.

It was another blistering break by Jones, who set up Mike Gallimore for a try, before converting to make it 17-7. But Warrington clipped three penalty points off the deficit when Northwich were penalised for holding on.

Northwich held their nerve and sealed the game with ten minutes to go when, yet again, Huw Jones swayed and swerved his way to the left and set up replacement winger Ricky Evans to score in the corner. Jones, who did not put a foot wrong all afternoon, converted from the touchline.

Northwich 2nds lost to Old Salians 24-10 (Ian Ellis try, Carl Senior pen); 3rds lost to Warrington 12-10 (Tim Pickering, Ian Morris tries).

Saturday: 1st away v Tyldesley, 2nds, 3rds away pool fixtures.