Matlock RFC 1sts 31
MATLOCK beat play-off chasing Kettering on Saturday at Cromford Meadows to make it back-to-back wins in the Midland One East.
Again, Matlock were forced into changes due to injuries and unavailabilities. In total, there were eight including Chris Young moving on to the bench as a last-minute replacement for George Whittaker, who had to withdraw in the warm-up and this large change in personnel led to a disjointed opening half.
In near-perfect rugby conditions, Matlock started the brightest and took the lead inside the opening ten minutes with a Tom Morton penalty in front of the posts.
Following this early score, both sides were unable to control the ball and while both sides tried to show invention, neither triggered a great deal in attack.
However, after 25 minutes, Matlock kicked a penalty to the corner and, after a series of close forward drives, it seemed Scott Robinson had scored, but the referee signalled for a Kettering penalty.
During the last ten minutes of the first half, Kettering were starting to take control and, following a poor clearance kick and numerous phases, they scored a converted try under the posts and went into the interval with a slender but deserved 7-3 lead.
The second half started in much the same fashion and it seemed that whichever side scored next would go on and win the game. Kettering took their very next chance and, at 12-3, it seemed the game had gone for the home side.
However, with the introduction of Gailey and Lane, Matlock edged back into Kettering territory knowing the next score would set up an exciting finale.
After much pressure on the Kettering line, Dan Hooton scurried over from short range. Young added the conversion and suddenly it was very much game on.
Almost immediately, Matlock forced the Kettering full-back to make a hurried clearance and, following excellent build-up play from the immense James Cooper, James Shooter outpaced the covering Kettering defence to score in the corner.
A magnificent touchline conversion made the score 17-12 to Matlock and there was only one team looking like winning.
Again, following excellent work from the kick-off, Matlock quickly found themselves within the opposition 22 and, after a number of phases, Tom Hooton, playing at scrum half, burrowed over. Once more, Young converted from near the touchline and it was effectively game over at 24-12.
For the remaining ten minutes, Kettering threw everything at the home defence but excellent tackling, led by Robinson and Cooper, helped Matlock hold out and they managed to have the last say.
An excellent tackle by Dan Hooton in midfield led to the home side winning a penalty and, with only moments left, kicked to the corner in search of a bonus point for a fourth try.
Despite their initial rolling maul collapsing, Chris Young cleverly chipped into the Kettering in-goal area and David Hartley was first to the ball to touch down.
Young completed the scoring by converting and Matlock had not only won but taken maximum points when half an hour previously they had looked unlikely to take anything from the game.
Kettering deserve a great deal of credit for the way they approached the game and they will surely challenge at the top of the league again next year.
Undoubtedly, the players and coaching staff will be thrilled with this fightback but the most pleasing aspect for coach Alan Johnson will be the number of players who have acquitted themselves so well in the first team during the last few weeks.
Particular mention must go to David Ball for his man-of-the-match performance in the front row and Luke Howard, who was not even in the squad at 9am, but who subsequently found himself on the bench before starting in place of Whittaker, only finding out 15 minutes before kick off.
His attitude and performance highlights the depth and commitment of this squad which should stand them in good stead for the remainder of this campaign and the next.