AFTER the euphoria of England's World Cup triumph, it was difficult for the players to produce a classic North One match at St Helens on Saturday.
West Park is always a difficult place to go and get a win but Chester began the game in a determined mood and put the hosts on the back foot. A Murray King penalty gave Chester an early lead only for it to be cancelled by a West Park penalty.
A superb break by Walker Smith and Way man-of-the-match Matt Bellamy gave Geraint Parry the chance to make inroads, but a poor pass from quick ball saw a certain try go begging.
This was to hurt Chester because, immediately, the West Park scrum-half made a super break and quick ball saw their winger cross the whitewash.
Chester forwards drove back into Park territory and another King penalty reduced the arrears to 8-6.
West Park forwards were now asking questions of the Chester defence and, after a missed penalty, their number five peeled off the back of a maul and was able to score a simple try, which was converted.
A Colin Ellis break from a quick tap looked promising but, once again, the final pass went to ground.
Just on half-time, Chester were penalised and the penalty was successful to take the score to 18-6 in Park's favour.
The half-time team talk was fairly vibrant with the coaches asking for a lot more commitment from the Chester pack.
With the coaches' words still ringing in their ears, a powerful run by Steve Burke saw the ball in the West '22' and King was able to score from his own kick-and-chase before adding the extra points.
With the score now at 18-13, the game was up for grabs. But proceedings became stop-start with the referee's whistle more prominent than the rugby. Numerous penalties were given against Chester, but West missed them all.
Chester threw everything at West Park and there was promise they would break the home defence. But solid tackling from the hosts, plus poor decision making, kept Chester from securing the win.
Helsby 2nd XV 7 Birkenhead Park 3rd XV 32
HELSBY seconds looked a little worse for wear in the wake of England's historic World Cup victory and lost their way against a well-drilled Birkenhead Park side.
The home team didn't really compete in the first 40 minutes and found themselves 20-0 down at half-time. In fact, if it hadn't been for some heroic tackling from centre Gordon Lilley, the scoreline could have been more embarrassing.
A stern talk from player-coach Tony Ryder seemed to lift Helsby and a big improvement showed in the second half with the pack beginning to dominate.
In particular, second-row forward Chris Millward and flanker Martin Perry gave outstanding displays as the forwards enjoyed good spells of pressure.
The village side were finally rewarded with a try when scrum-half Dave Orme won a quick tap penalty and fed Lilley, who crashed over the line from 20 yards. Tim Rutter converted.
The Bells Development man-of-the-match was Lilley.