Dunstablians 1sts 8
Matlock 1sts 15
Matlock’s long journey to Dunstable got off to a false start when they had to return to collect two pairs of forgotten boots.
Nevertheless, the trip down south ultimately proved worthwhile as important Midland One East points were secured.
With the previous two games postponed due to frost, the squad was eagerly looking forward to continuing a run of good results. Despite six regular players going skiing mid-season, the growing wealth of homegrown talent still ensured a strong squad.
Tom Morton came in at scrum-half, Dave Hartley moved to inside centre, with Tom Hooton at full back. The pack and bench were boosted by James Noble and James Shooter who showed their dedication to the cause by making long journeys from Bristol and Bangor respectively.
With a very strong wind blowing straight down the pitch, a game of two halves looked likely. Having won the toss, Matlock elected to play with the elements to build up a good half-time lead. What transpired went against plan as Matlock turned round with only a slim 3-0 advantage, courtesy of a Chris Young penalty.
In the opening minutes, the home team’s intentions were clear as Dave Hartley took a head shot from his opposite number. Matlock mounted a series of attacks and a resulting five-metre scrum was driven over. Although the home side scrum broke up, it went unrealised and the opportunity was lost.
Matlock soon mounted another attack and were awarded a penalty which Young converted. Moments later, Matlock went down to 14 men when Brookes was unfortunate to be shown a yellow card.
Even a man down, Matlock’s lighter pack was still getting the better of the scrums. However, questionable tactics by the home side made it difficult for Matlock to maintain attacking moves.
Half-time saw Matlock facing the prospect of playing the next 40 minutes against a very strong wind and a buoyant home side tasting their chance for a first win of the season. However, the home side had not bargained on Matlock’s stoic character and within five minutes, Matlock had extended their lead with a well-earned try.
Against the strong wind, Matlock adopted a direct ball-in-hand approach and a series of phases made up of forward pick and drives and strong midfield runs from Dan Hooton and Dave Hartley took Matlock from inside their own half to within yards of the line. A try looked certain when Young’s pass was deliberately knocked down by a defender. The referee allowed advantage as Matlock regained the ball and it was moved to Tom Hooton who forced his way to the line for a try. The conversion was narrowly missed.
The game was still far from won and although Matlock’s solid defence was thwarting all attacks, a series of penalty decisions saw Dunstable in range of the posts and they eagerly took the three points.
The game remained finely balanced but with Matlock looking the more dangerous. Substitutions brought Gailey and Shooter into the fray for Bunting and Lane, and the game continued with Matlock strongly defending anything Dunstable threw at them. The pack’s defence around the rucks and mauls was exceptional.
Captain Dave Ball led by example and Luke Croft, playing in the unfamiliar position of open-side, made several crucial turnovers.
Matlock’s next score came six minutes from the end. Finding themselves down to 14 men, they forced their way upfield and, from a scrum close to the line, Shooter picked up, surged towards the line and managed to touch down under the posts.
Young converted and the win was all but secure with the score at 15-3. Matlock again found themselves under pressure and a series of penalties resulted in the home side scoring with the final play of the match, thereby earning the losing bonus point. The final score was 15-8.
Mention should be made of man of the match James Noble for an overall outstanding contribution.
This week Matlock are at home to Bedford Athletic. Kick-off is at 2.15pm.