MATLOCK RFC bounced back from last week’s Loughborough disappointment in devastating fashion by thrashing local rivals Ilkeston 60-7.
Midweek preparations had seen the squad pull together to iron out the problems of the previous week and there was a feeling of excitement and determination within the camp.
The line up saw a number of changes from the previous week.
Twyford and Shooter were back from injury and new skipper Jack Wagg made a welcome return to the pack.
With Stephenson and Powell both ruled out through injury, Lane started in the front row and Whittaker showed his versatility, switching from back row to wing. Richardson, Rollinson and Tom Hooton made up the bench.
Matlock took to the field like a coiled spring and, from the kick off, they unleashed their frustrations in the best way with an intensity which took the visitors by surprise.
With only a minute gone, Matlock moved the ball wide one way and then the other for Ben Neville to outpace the defence for his first try. Young was wide with the conversion but this proved his only miss of the day in an imperious display of goal kicking and kicking from hand which tormented and punished Ilkeston.
The visitors bounced back from the early shock but struggled to gain momentum as Matlock’s pressure in defence forced them into errors and turned over possession. Matlock’s supremacy in the scrums was evident and while lineouts were more evenly contested, Young’s kicking game kept the visitors under pressure.
The second home try came on 18 minutes from a midfield scrum. Young spotted space and chipped over the wing for the fleet-footed Packard to show his paces and hack the ball over the line before touching down. Young added the extras from the touchline.
Four minutes later, a series of rucks and mauls saw Matlock’s pack surge through the Ilkeston defence for Shooter to touch down for another converted try.
Soon after, Young added three points from a penalty to take the score to 22-0 and the bonus point try came with only 27 minutes on the clock.
Ilkeston made a fine break but was hauled down on halfway by Neville.
The loose ball was quickly recycled and moved to Packard in space to race around his opposite number and sidestep the last defender for a superb score under the posts. Young added the extras. From the restart, Ilkeston attempted to put some phases together and looked threatening only for a Mackrell to pounced on the edge of Matlock’s 22 and race the length of the pitch for the fifth try.
Young converted and Matlock led 36-0 at half-time.
At half time, coach Alan Johnson praised the all-round performance and called for even more intensity.
While Ilkeston made a bright start, all their attacks were met by resolute defence. When there was a small breach of the defensive wall, the threat was quickly snuffed out with Neville, Cooper, Wagg and Hartley all putting in fine tackles.
Seven minutes into the half, Matlock increased their lead with the best try of the day saw the ball spun wide from a scrum, Hartley and Packard exchanged passes before Neville raced away for his second try. Young converted to make it 43-0.
Ten minutes later, Ilkeston were finally rewarded for their continued efforts. Matlock were penalised for coming in at the side of the ruck and a quick tap penalty by Ilkeston saw him cross the line unopposed, aided by a hint of crossing and the conversion was successful.
Soon after, Young increased his points tally with another penalty. Some reorganisation saw Hartley replace Young at scrum half and Tom Hooton on at full back.
Hooton was soon showing his paces and after a determined run became isolated near the line.
The ball was turned over but a poor Ilkeston clearance was fielded by Mackrell who passed to Neville to force his way over for his hat-trick and Young added the extras.
With the final whistle approaching, an Ilkeston clearing kick was fielded by Hooton on Matlock’s ten-metre line.
Evading the oncoming defender, he surged forward, passed to Mackrell who in turn fed Packard for what seemed like a simple run in but the last pass was adjudged forward.
Unbowed Matlock continued to apply the pressure and were rewarded with the final score when James Cooper, whose strong running had been a feature of the match, powered his way over from five metres. Young added the conversion and the final whistle went with the score 60-7 in Matlock’s favour.
This was a superb team display throughout, with the forwards providing a great platform to enable the backs to show their pace and handling skills. It was very difficult to single out players in such a complete performance but after some deliberation the man of the match award was given jointly to leading try scorer Ben Neville and powerhouse James Cooper.
This Saturday sees the squad take a well-earned break.
The next league match is on November 12 when Matlock travel to Leighton Buzzard (2.15pm kick off).