DURHAM City will be hoping centre Richard Stanley was their only casualty from Saturday's 22-12 home win against Alnwick as they prepare to visit Beverley.

They need to overhaul the East Yorkshire club, who are just above them in second place in North Two East, if they are to have any chance of promotion.

Stanley broke a collar bone shortly after scoring City's third try to put them 22-7 ahead with 20 minutes left of what was winger Tomas Bieliauskas's last game.

The Lithuanian international flew home yesterday after completing a post-graduate course in Durham.

Fly half Dan Kyle was due to return after injury, but had to withdraw because of a bereavement, so Nick Howe continued at No 10.

Although there were periods when Alnwick came back strongly, particularly after trailing 14-0 at half-time, City controlled the loose and deserved the win.

After an even start they began to get on top and after a 40-metre break by Stanley they produced further pressure after lock Chris Wearmouth took a quick penalty.

They went ahead after 17 minutes when they swung the ball right from a maul and Bieliauskas came across from the opposite wing to send Darren McKinnon over.

James Walker converted and was again on target when Bieliauskas caught a cross-kick and counter-attacked strongly before full back Ralph Smith raced in from 40 metres.

City had to defend strongly in the last few minutes of the half and Alnwick came out strongly afterwards, missing a straightforward penalty.

But they needed a City mistake to help them score. A pass to Smith, coming into the line at pace, went astray and a visiting centre picked up and shot over from 45 metres.

City got back on top and drove a maul over from outside the 22, only for McKinnon to be held up, but a penalty resulted and Smith made it 17-7.

City drove over twice more without satisfying the referee that they had got the ball down, but when they opened up from a five-metre scrum Bieliauskas again came in from the wing and popped the ball up for Stanley to score.

City stayed in control and the match was into added time when Alnwick drove over from a maul.

Despite home advantage, West Hartlepool did City no favours as their improved form was not enough to topple leaders Penrith, who scored the only try in a 10-3 win.

* Saturday's widespread postponements should not create much chaos below the national leagues as most clubs have free dates to fill.

Middlesbrough, for example, have March 18 and April 1 on which to fit in the visit of West Park St Helens.

Blaydon have agreed with New Brighton that the Merseysiders will visit them next Saturday, which had become a blank date in the National Three North calendar because of the England Counties' match against France Amateurs.

Originally March 18 was the free Saturday, but it was decided to switch, leaving Darlington without a game next Saturday with Bradford and Bingley visiting the following week instead.

While several teams are now fitting in matches this Saturday, Blaydon's promotion rivals Nuneaton have declined to do so because they have three men in the England Counties squad.

Following the postponement of their match at Cleckheaton, Nuneaton will not now complete their programme until May 6.

This all adds further fuel to the arguments against expanding the national leagues, although it seems only the clubs in the North-East and Cornwall are opposed to it.

The questionnaire recently sent out from Twickenham even asks whether clubs would be prepared to play in midweek.

The division one clubs have threatened to go it alone, expanding to 16 teams, and the knock-on effect of that could be that two teams go up automatically from Three North without the need for a play-off.

While that might suit Blaydon, the only team currently in division two who they might be prepared to visit in midweek is Harrogate.