Matlock RUFC were beaten 34-14 in league action at Coalville, but the scoreline did not reflect what was a close game for much of the afternoon.
A clearly frustrated and extremely disappointed Matlock left the field in the knowledge that the result could and should have been very different. Despite citing the damaging effect of several incorrect crucial decisions, Matlock also didn’t help themselves.
Poor retention at kick-offs, not sticking to the game plan, loose passes and sloppy defence also contributed to their heaviest defeat of the season so far.
Being unable to call upon the services of the Wright twins, Chris Atkinson and James Young the squad once again saw changes.
Connor Loughnane returned to the front row, Tim Taylor moved into the second row, Adam Twyford started on the flank and Tom Cruttenden switched to No 8.
James Fairclough came back in at fly half with Mike Allen back at inside centre. Harry Morton and Harry Boyd were joined on the bench by Rory Cookman.
As the game kicked off Matlock had the slight benefit of a fairly strong breeze blowing across the pitch leaning towards the home side’s corner flag.
Matlock began well, spending the best part of the opening quarter in the Coalville half. But, despite having both territorial and possession advantage, they were unable to turn the pressure into points.
On 17 minutes Coalville made their first visit into the Matlock 22 and came away with a converted try.
This was against the run of play and aided by a contentious decision by the referee, who awarded a free kick to the home side for Matlock not matching numbers in the line out.
Coalville scoring from the resulting 5m scrum to add insult to injury.
That decision seemed to set the pattern for the game as several more questionable decisions followed throughout the match.
Matlock put this setback behind them as they looked to fight back.
On 34 minutes they were rewarded for their efforts with a try coming from a fine counter attack from inside their own half.
From a ruck just outside the Matlock 22 the ball was moved blind to Fairclough, who raced up the wing and then chipped ahead.
The chase by Fairclough and Gunter was good and Coalville had no choice but to hack the ball into touch.
Matlock won the line out and set up a good driving maul which seemed to be heading over the Coalville line when Morton suddenly passed the ball out to Hooton who was surprised to receive the ball as he was racing in to join the maul.
He took the pass and stepped past the equally surprised Coalville defenders to touch down. Morton added the extras and the scores were level at 7-7.
In the second half the penalty count against Matlock began to tot up as they were caught offside time and again, which was particularly frustrating as Coalville were constantly offside yet escaped punishment.
Coalville benefited from these indiscretions with a penalty on 47 minutes followed by a well worked try five minutes later to open up a 15-7 lead. Matlock again buckled down and began to play some quality rugby with some strong carries by Tom Cruttenden, which culminated in a try for Mike Gunter from close range. Morton added the extras and Matlock were very much in the game at 15-14.
Soon after this Matlock were forced into making changes as both Dan Hooton and Alex Powell left the field with injuries.
Initially this didn’t affect their game and after great footwork by Boyd sent Howard racing away down the wing, a score looked certain until Howard’s final pass inside to Allen was called forward by the referee, who was some 30m behind play.
The pass was not forward and that score would have given Matlock a vital lead.
From this point every decision appeared to favour the home side and Matlock’s defensive coherence lapsed.
Coalville extended their lead with another converted try and then Matlock suffered the ignominy of losing Tom Cruttenden to a yellow card for a simple push, right after a Coalville player escaped any punishment at all for a dangerous tackle on James Harrod right in front of the referee.
Now down to 14 men, Matlock’s resolve collapsed allowing Coalville to run in two further tries, one of which was a clear forward pass.
The injury-hit squad would benefit from a break this weekend, but must travel to Stafford in the third round of the Intermediate Cup for what promises to be another testing encounter (2.15pm).
Team: C. Loughnane, J. Statham, A. Staham, T. Taylor, J. Harrod, A. Twyford, C. Jackson, T. Cruttenden, T. Morton, J. Fairclough, L. Howard, M. Allen, D. Hooton, M. Gunter, A. Powell. Bench: R. Cookman, H. Morton, H. Boyd.