Matlock just hang on to claim vital home victory

James Cooper, Matlock RFC.
James Cooper, Matlock RFC.

Matlock RFC 1sts 17

Coalville 15

On a very cold, damp and dreary afternoon, Matlock managed to hold on to claim a welcome win and round off the first half of their Midlands One East season.

Matlock needed to win to cement their place in the top half at the Christmas break and Coalville were desperately looking for a change of fortune to kickstart a revival to their disappointing season so far.

Matlock were in buoyant mood with several players returning to the line-up.

Stephenson and Twyford were back in the pack while James Young returned at fly half, Hartley at full back and Tom Hooton on the bench. At the 11th hour, Shooter withdrew from the starting line-up due to a migraine, which meant Taylor started at No.8.

Playing conditions were not at all conducive to the open running styles associated with both sides and the first quarter became something of a battle of attrition.

In these early exchanges, Matlock looked the most likely to benefit and some of the forward pick and drives and support play was outstanding.

However, several promising scoring opportunities came to nothing. Packard came close to opening the scoring but after hacking on the ball, just ran dead before he could touch down.

Finally, after a long spell camped on the Coalville line, the ball was moved quickly from a ruck to James Young who dummied and crashed over near the posts. Morton added the extras.

Almost immediately, Matlock then gifted their opponents a really soft try. Attacking just outside Coalville’s 22, an attempted long pass went behind the midfield and ultimately into the hands of the opposition winger to race away for an unconverted try.

Matlock increased the lead to 10-5 shortly before half time with a Morton penalty. Half-time arrived with the home side rueing several missed opportunities.

At the start of the second half, Morton made way for Young to move to his more familiar scrum half role, Hartley to fly half and Tom Hooton came on at fullback.

The second half began with both sides battling the conditions but struggling to bring any real continuity to the game with players losing their footing and having difficulty holding the greasy ball.

Matlock perservered and on 45 minutes more good close quarter approach play by the pack, with Richardson and Cooper prominent, took play up to the Coalville line. Finally, with the ball held up over the line, Matlock were awarded a scrum.

The forwards drove the opposition pack backwards over the line for Taylor to touch down. Hartley added the extras and Matlock were beginning to look comfortable at 17-5.

The game then became messy again with neither side being capable of stringing a series of phases together without coughing up the ball.

Even then it was Matlock who looked the most likely to score and a golden chance to put the game beyond doubt went begging.

A Coalville attack broke down on Matlock’s 22, Dan Hooton picked up and set off on a run putting Howard away up the touchline but his final pass back inside went behind the supporting player.

With only seven minutes left, Matlock then lost James Young with a knee to the head and with Shooter unfortunately not fit to enter the fray Matlock had to play on with only 14 men.

Tom Hooton then also took a blow to the head after he slipped into an attempted tackle and was also ruled out for the remainder of the game.

In this period, Coalville took advantage of Matlock’s misfortune and disarray to score two tries in the space of three minutes.

Both were scored out wide and Matlock were relieved to see the last kick of the game come back off the post and to give them victory by the narrowest of margins.

The man of the match award went to Lewis Richardson who was in rampaging mood all afternoon.

Matlock are now looking forward to using the three-week break to work on certain areas of the game and get over niggling injuries.

With Chris Young, Alex Powell and Nick Coombes also back in contention after injury, the squad will be looking to take things to another level when the league campaign restarts away at old rivals Paviors on January 7, with the game kicking off at 2.15pm.