Burton 36 Matlock RFC 41
Matlock travelled to Burton with a justified confidence in their own ability in the wake of their recent victory at the Tens Tournament.
However, the prospect of playing a side just relegated from the National Three Midlands league was likely to be a stern test.
The average age of the squad was around 24 and although there were a few players missing in key positions, the squad was boosted by the return from injury of Chris Young and Dan Hooton.
As often happens in these “friendly” warm up games, it was agreed to play three sessions of 25 minutes, a good test of fitness for the Matlock side, which had only 20 players to rotate against Burton’s 30-plus squad.
The first session kicked off and it was soon evident that Matlock had the upper hand with the pack dominating in the set piece and also in the driving mauls. Matlock almost scored in the first couple of minutes when the versatile Rollinson, starting on the wing, showed great handling skills, almost putting Whittaker in at the corner.
The first score was Matlock’s when, from a driving maul close to the Burton line, George Stephenson claimed the touch down.
This was followed by an excellent try from broken play with Chris Buckley touching down. Young added the extras to make the score 12-0.
Burton then mounted an attack and scored a try from their own driving maul. Matlock continued to dominate the first session with excellent performances from Gailey and the Wright brothers in the pack and strong running in the three quarters from Goodall and Neville.
The second session saw Burton bounce back due to some indifferent defending which allowed them to score two converted tries, taking the score to 19-19. Matlock responded well and finished the second session with three more scores.
The first came from George Whittaker taking a fine catch from Chris Young’s cross kick to touch down in the corner. This was soon followed by James Shooter crashing over between the posts and then one of the Wright twins (was it Simon or was it Tom?) who capitalised on indecision to pounce on the loose ball. Burton pulled back another try to make the score 29-24 to Matlock at the break.
With the ground a tad hard, there was understandably a number of walking wounded at the start of the final session but Matlock were boosted by the inclusion of Hinchliffe who put in a fine display. Shortly into the last session, Morton left the field and Dan Hooton moved from centre to the unfamiliar scrum half berth, not that it showed as, with his first pick up from the base, he sniped blind before chipping the ball over the defence for Whittaker to follow up and win the race for the touch down, only to see the excellent young referee give a penalty try for attempted obstruction.
Young added the extras to make it 36-24. Still Burton were not out of it and another bout of slack defending saw them claw back to 36-31. Matlock rallied again with Noble, Shooter, Ball, Taylor, Twyford and Richardson leading the way. Camped for an eternity on the Burton line, Matlock used the pick and drive tactic, only to be repelled time and again by Burton’s strong defence before finally Neville picked up and dived over the ruck to touch down. Burton had the final say with a last minute score but Matlock came out deserved winners with the score at 41-36.
This was a good test against tough opposition, a great effort from the squad and showed there is much to look forward to in the season ahead.
This week, the squad travels to the West Midlands for another “friendly” against Camp Hill.