Sandal 51 Chester 28

HEAD coach Nic Corrigan has shouldered the blame for Chester’s potentially damaging defeat at title rivals Sandal on Saturday.

The heavy 51-28 loss meant Chester’s advantage at the top of National League Three North was cut to 10 points by a second-placed Harrogate side who have a game in hand.

Sandal’s ninth victory in their last 10 matches has also given the third-placed West Yorkshire outfit hope that they could yet catch the long-time leaders.

Corrigan knows that is not beyond the realms of possibility if his players continue to perform as inconsistently as they have done since the turn of the year.

But he admitted he is not beyond criticism either.

Corrigan said: “As head coach I have to take responsibility for the performance on Saturday.

“We failed to execute the gameplan I gave them and I can only apologise to our fans – the ones who travelled to Yorkshire to watch us and the ones back home.

“Unfortunately we lived up to our tags of bridesmaids and changes will have to be made.

“I’m not talking sweeping changes.

“But I am not happy with our performances in 2013.”

Chester have missed out on promotion in the past two seasons after being out in front.

So Corrigan believed the clash at form-team Sandal represented the perfect chance for them to prove they are the real deal.

Instead they will have to show they have the character to bounce back when they welcome fifth-placed Billingham to Hare Lane on Saturday (2.15pm).

Corrigan said: “The game will be the biggest challenge that we have faced this season as a group.

“We need to be a different animal, a more robust animal, and we need to produce a performance ahead of a programme of fixtures in March that will define our season.”

Rhys Hayes (2), Pat Coy and Paul Sherlock shared Chester’s tries at Sandal.

Second-placed Christleton returned to winning ways in Raging Bull North West League Division Four South on Saturday by triumphing 38-32 at Trafford Metrovick 3rds. Helsby enjoyed a morale-boosting 18-12 success at home to Holmes Chapel in South Lancs/Cheshire Division Three.