Matlock RFC 35
Bedford Athletic 33
Matlock welcomed their visitors from Bedford to Cromford Meadows in front of large, well-fed, partisan crowd on Vice-Presidents Day.
From the kick-off, the visitors made a lively start, recycling the ball well through several phases, and dominated both territory and possession for the opening minutes.
Matlock’s defence coped well with the opening assault before they managed to retain some possession and force their way into the Bedford half, forcing a scrum just inside the Bedford 22.
With the scrum ball won, Chris Young darted down the blindside, cleverly stepped past one defender and drew the other before passing to Dan Hooton for a simple finish in the corner.
Young converted brilliantly from out wide to make it 7-0 with ten minutes gone.
Matlock now appeared to be gaining the upper hand and other good scoring opportunities went begging.
Wagg made a superb break before being brought down yards from the line.
Matlock recycled the ball and worked their way to the corner where James Young picked up and touched down on the blind side of the ruck.
Unfortunately, the referee was on the wrong side to see a try had been scored, called the ball as being held up and gave a five-metre scrum to the defending side.
Matlock continued to press and, as Bedford infringed, a penalty was awarded which Young slotted over. Shortly after, Alex Powell left the field due to a cut to his eyelid and Turner joined the fray.
Matlock were looking the better side and the more threatening but time and again a lack of patience and control in the build-up let them down and the ball was turned over when hopeful offloads failed to find their own players in support.
This sloppy play gifted opportunities to the Bedford team and, in the space of ten minutes, Matlock found themselves 15-10 down as Bedford scored a penalty, two tries and a conversion.
Throughout the half, Matlock’s backline had looked dangerous with ball in hand and this was emphasised on the stroke of half-time when Ben Neville ran a great line to scythe through the Bedford defence from 35 yards out to scorch under the posts for a converted try.
Despite coach Alan Johnson’s appraisal of the team’s error-strewn first half, the second half began in much the same vein as Matlock were penalised, initially 25 metres from their own line.
The referee adjudged the ball to be kicked away and marched the home side ten metres back, followed by a further ten metres for not being ten metres back when the kick was taken.
With a tap penalty now five metres out, the huge Bedford second row forced his way over.
Only a minute later, Matlock regained the lead as their backline again tore through the opposition defence. This time, it was Elliot Turner who burst through the line before firing a pass out to the pacy Packard to race over in the corner.
More loose play then allowed Bedford to score a further try wide out and the lead changed hands yet again. Young brought the scores level with another penalty before Bedford gained another try.
The Matlock backs had looked the better unit and they persevered with their running game plan.
This finally brought dividends when Dan Hooton put Packard away to outpace the defence.
With minutes to go, Bedford took the lead again through a penalty kick and it looked as if they had done enough to take the winning points, but they hadn’t gambled on Matlock’s resolve and with only two minutes on the clock the ball was again moved wide to this week’s man of the match Ben Neville, who despite nursing a pulled hamstring, still raced past the covering defence into the corner to give Matlock a slender 35-33 lead.
Many past players were a welcome sight down at the club and long may that continue. It is also a great statement that 99 per cent of the first team squad have come through the junior section.
The next first team game is at Cromford Meadows on Wednesday, April 11, against Dronfield in the Derbyshire Cup semi final, kick-off at 7.45pm.
This is followed by Towcestrians away on Saturday, April 14, kicking off at 3pm.