Chester RUFC lost at home for third time this season as National League Two North newcomers gained a deserved 22-14 victory.
In an exciting if somewhat error-strewn contest, Chester never quite seemed to settle and failed to take firm control of the game.
Jon Aby's side began well enough with Callum Bennett kicking two penalties to open up a 6-0 lead. However, the visitors then started to control possession with a patient approach with a catch-and-drive score from a lineout bringing them to within a point.
Chester responded with Bennett knocking over three more points to put them 9-5 ahead. Sandal continued to dictate proceedings but stout defence kept them out save for Mark Pease's penalty to make the half-time score a fortunate 9-8 to the hosts.
The second-half did not go well from a Chester perspective, turning possession over three times at the scrum and coughing up three lineout balls.
A lack of fluency with ball in hand meant the Sandal line was not seriously tested and the visitors were able to control both the ball and territory.
More good work from the forwards gave them a converted try on 48 minutes to put them into a 15-9 lead and 10 minutes later a powerful scrum allowed James Briscoe to pick up and cross for a simple score, which Pease converted for a 22-9 advantage.
With 70 minutes on the clock, Chester applied their most consistent attacking pressure of the match and visiting winger Simon Frewin was sin-binned for pulling down a maul. From the scrum that followed, John Ketland made a break and the ball found fullback Pete Towers for an unconverted score in the corner.
Sandal lost their composure in the closing stages and conceded a number of penalties but Aby's men never came close to making up the two scores required as the clock ran down.
Chester make the trip to ninth-placed Harrogate on Saturday (3pm).
Oilers bounce back to winning ways
Head coach Steve Dorrington was pleased to see Ellesmere Port get back to winning ways with a well-deserved bonus point victory at Mossley Hill.
Port were always on top and scored directly from receiving the kick-off as James Callaghan beat four men and offloaed to Sam Bethell, who carried the ball close to line before scrum-half Ollie Brown put Anthony Jones in for an early try with Chris Carbutt converting for a 7-0 lead.
Mossley Hill struggled to gain effective go-forward ball as the Oilers dominated the set piece and contact area, and the Oilers took advantage as Callaghan burst over the line with half of the population of Liverpool trying to stop him to extend his team’s lead and Carbutt chipped over the extras for 14-0.
A string of penalties then allowed the hosts some possession but the defence held them out and, following good work from Brown and Jones, the rampaging Callaghan crashed over for his second and Port’s third converted try to give them a 21-0 half-time lead.
The second-half started much in the same vein with Port exploiting weakness in the Mossley Hill forwards and the experienced Steven Jefferies fed the unstoppable Joe Wool-Partington to cross through a myriad of defenders and extend the lead to 26-0.
However, then came a disturbing period in the game as the Oilers relaxed and had a man sent to the sin-bin, giving the hosts a chance to strike back.
Ill-discipline and sloppy defending saw them rack up 19 points in 10 minutes as the Port looked in big trouble but to their credit the Oilers finished with a flourish as a slick move resulted in returning skipper James Shinton going over and Carbutt converted to seal the points.
Dorrington said afterwards: “I’m very pleased with the win and bonus point, but I can’t afford offer any words to describe what had happened in a 10 minute vacuum when 19 points were conceded."
Walker's star turn as Helsby run riot
Helsby continue to rack up points with Linley 3rds on the wrong end of a 77-3 scoreline in the first round of Lighting and Building Services Plate.
It was a resounding victory for Heslby, who have scored an incredible 378 points in their last five games and face undefeated Division Five South leaders Winnington Park 3rds this weekend.
Alex Walker scored four tries and kicked nine conversions in a man of the match performance. Lewis Ainge, Matty Lee, Matty Burns, Luke Jones, Stuart Kennedy and Alistair Grant crossed too.
Trophy torment as Swans thrashed
Christleton crashed out of the Brooke Edgley Specialist Technical Services Trophy with a 96-3 reverse at Liverpool St Helens 2nds.