PERCY Park bolstered their promotion credentials in National League Three North with a narrow win over previously unbeaten Chester at Preston Avenue on Saturday.
The 20-18 win maintained Park’s own 100 percent record of six wins out of six and moved them to within a point of new league leaders Harrogate.
Percy Park started with the same pack as the previous week, but Jimmy Baldwin started on the wing for unavailable Liam Blackburn.
Chester surprisingly left Tom Foden out of their starting line-up, and the former championship player had to be content with warming the bench for the first half.
Supporters from both sides were treated to a fast paced game with Park coming out on top and going close to earning a bonus point.
Park opened the scoring on ten minutes after a Michael Stephenson break. The full-back seeing his path to the line blocked, chipped the defence, and was then sandwiched between two defenders in his chase to the line. Two Chester defenders went for the same ball just short of the line, and Baldwin on the Park left wing picked their pockets to steal the ball and go over for the first try, which was not converted.
Chester came with a reputation for open rugby with their fast back line, but their forwards did not win sufficient ball to be effective.
The Park pack had the upper hand in the tight and in the lineouts. The Reds’ Lloyd Hayes had a chance to peg Park back with a penalty which missed, although he was on target after 16 minutes as the home side led 5-3.
Influential lock Craig Fidler had to leave the field with a shoulder injury, which brought 6ft 9in Josh Hedley on for his debut.
The Falcons Academy player was straight into action and took the ball on, breaking through the close defenders around a ruck and set up a good attack for the home side.
Pressure on Chester caused them to stray offside in the midfield, and rather than take a kick at goal, Stephenson took a quick tap and set off for the line.
As he was tackled he threw out a wide pass to Johnny Ward who just managed to retrieve the ball and stepped inside the cover defence to go over for Park’s second try, as they went into the half-time break 10-3 to the good.
In the second half Chester hit back with a Hayes penalty.
But the Park forwards continued to batter away with Andy Dunn being held up in the in goal area, and Brett Sylph being stopped just inches short.
When Chester were reduced to 14 men for repeated offending, despite the numerical disadvantage it was they who scored next on 66 minutes from a counter attack started by full -back Foden.
The ball was run wide with Hayes eventually going over for the unconverted try to give his side a narrow 11-10 lead against the run of play.
Percy Park struck back and when Ward was clothes-lined on half way, the home side were awarded a penalty which was taken quickly, but the Chester defence had not retreated the required ten metres.
Some back chat by Chester saw them marched a further ten metres to give Ash Smith an easy penalty chance to make it 13-11.
Then came the try of the match, with Ward again coming off his wing through midfield traffic, a long bounce pass inside Park’s half found Smith in the open and the Park fly-half set off with Baldwin on his shoulder.
Given a well timed pass to take out the defender, Baldwin set off down the left flank and drew across Foden and gave a lovely inside pass to Stephenson to go in for the score.
This time Smith was on target with the conversion, and Park were 20-11 in front with eight minutes remaining.
Chester’s back line did look dangerous when they had ball in hand, and with Park attacking their line an intercepted pass saw them set of up field. The ball went through several pairs of hands before Pat Coy went over on 78 minutes and Hayes converted to take the score to 20-18.
Park played keep ball with the forwards for the remaining minutes of the game after regaining possession from the kick-off, and as the whistle went, the disappointment on the faces of the Chester players was clear for all to see.
On Saturday Park have a tough away trip to Waterloo to defend their unbeaten record.
Morpeth Reivers 7 Percy Park Lions 41
THIS was another convincing win for Percy Park’s 2nd XV with new boys George Lewis and Ryan Wilson bagging five of Park’s six tries of which Lewis scored four. The other try came from Howard Stock and Simon Greetham kicked a penalty and four conversions.
Next week the Lions have the tougher task of taking on league leaders Tynedale Raiders at Preston Avenue.
Whitley Bay Rockcliff 0 Percy Park Pumas 53
THE Pumas put the Vikings to the sword with this emphatic whitewash at Lovaine Terrace.
Next week they have a home game against Wallsend Warriors.
The Marauders were unable to pick up a game, but will be looking for a game next week on the fixture exchange.