A defiant Old Mutual Douglas were beaten at promotion-chasing Northwich, reversing the 36-24 result at Port-e-Chee in September and dropping Douglas four places from 3rd in the highly competitive league where 4th to 9th are now covered by three points. Although without twelve potential starters, making various positional changes and introducing a new cap, Douglas were within range at half time where only a charge down try put the hosts 17-7 ahead shortly before the break. Liam.jpgNick Baldwin kicked Northwich in front with a penalty after 10 minutes. Douglas number 10 Bryn Snellgrove registered a rare three-pointer miss from distance, but flanker come hooker Carl Markl-Ferns took a clever pass from Snellgrove moments later to rock the hosts with a scintillating score and take a 3-7 lead after Snellgrove’s conversion. Liam Kirkpatrick and Max Singer were in thundering form up front for Douglas, and Robert Todd made an effectual and long awaited front-row return. Prop Tom King burrowed over to score from a Northwich maul after 20 minutes and 10-7, but the Douglas scrum with Dave Hinks and Chris Bollen in command, and line-out with Kirkpatrick majestic (left picture courtesy Paul Senogles), was more than holding up and putting Northwich under pressure. Spencer Cope at scrum-half made a seamless Douglas league debut, and when Northwich flanker Jonny English was yellow-carded after 30 minutes the visitors were again in the ascendancy. But scoring chances came and went, and when fullback Joel Barber fashioned a probing kick out of defence for Norwich to charge upfield, on the Douglas try line prop Will Du Randt’s broad frame blocked the relieving kick to score in the 40th minute. Northwich recovered form after the break and hooker Kyle Lindsay dived over with a try in the 50th minute, despite Douglas youngsters Harry Hewson and Connor Stephens tireless defence. Barber then plotted an unstoppable line off winger Bud Skinkess to score, and although Baldwin’s second penalty for 30-7 took the result out of the visitors reach, the indefatigable Markl-Ferns blasted over in the corner in the 65th minute. James Maddrell and Josh Carine kept Douglas on the front foot, and the whiff of a losing bonus point that would have left Douglas in 4th spot was evident when try machine Nick Brooker confirmed his finishing prowess with a score in the 70th minute. The finale however did’nt include a yielding Northwich defence and honours over the two legs stayed pretty much even. Liam Kirkpatrick was Man of the Match amongst a few candidates for that accolade. We already know how hungry Chris Bollen is for action, and it was great to see Toddy back in front row stirrups after his sojourn to number 10 with the Celts. Max Singer really led from the front, ‘young’ Dave Hinks did more than his vintage should allow, and Ralph Clarke fronted up as always wherever he’s chucked in. Travelling squad - Chris Bollen, Robert Todd, Dave Hinks, Max Singer, Ralph Clarke, Liam Kirkpatrick, Carl Markl-Ferns, Filipe Pereira, Spencer Cope, Bryn Snellgrove, Nick Brooker, Conor Stephens, Harry Hewson, James Maddrell, Josh Carine, Tom Dutnall, Adam Boyd A loss, and pointless, but plenty of positives to mull over before welcoming Wilmslow next Saturday. Glyn Hooson-Owen, Max Morley-Green, Dom Winrow, Craig McGee, Akkie Van den Berg, Mike Osbourne and Niall Killey were unavailable to travel, and Paul Leivers, Simon Hoddinott, Guy Wood, Carl Murray, Nathan Knights and Sam Games are to recover from injury – who’d be a selector with any of those available over the next few weeks ? A ‘get well soon’ to Simon Hoddinott who is having an MRI scan today on the knee injury sustained against Waterloo.