NLD Cup defeat for below-par Matlock

Ben Neville, Matlock RFC
Ben Neville, Matlock RFC
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Matlock RFC 1sts 19

Newark 25

Matlock’s rollercoaster season continued with a narrow and frustrating defeat to old rivals Newark in the NLD Cup.

Relegated from the Midlands One East League last season, Newark have maintained a 100 per cent record in Midland Two in their bid to bounce back up.

Their confidence from this winning streak was evident throughout the game and this paid dividends, bringing them a well-deserved victory on a day when the home side generally lacked sufficient intensity and control and whose defence was average at best.

Once again, Matlock were forced to reorganise the starting line-up. With talisman Chris Young out with a hand injury, brother James started at flyhalf, Tom Hooton at scrum half and Luke Howard on the wing. The match could not have started worse for Matlock when, in the first minute, Newark seized upon a loose ball, Matlock failed to react quickly enough, gifting the visitors with a converted try.

Matlock attempted to overcome this initial setback but the shape seemed wrong. A reshuffle saw Hooton move to his stronger full back role, Hartley to fly half and Young back to his familiar scrum half berth.

This seemed to settle the home side and the forward unit began to lift the intensity but they couldn’t quite create the phases to trouble the scoresheet and, against the run of play, Newark extended the lead with a penalty with 20 minutes played.

Matlock stuck to the gameplan and, with the pack dominant in the scrum and with an improved lineout, they began to put the opposition on the back foot.

The reward came on 28 minutes when a forward drive ended with James Cooper crashing over. James Young converted brilliantly.

This seemed to bring life to the home side and, eight minutes later, Ben Neville scored a superb try, bursting through the Newark midfield and stepping past two defenders before outpacing the last defender to the corner. The conversion was missed but Matlock had the lead for the first time in the game.

Matlock then had a series of scrums five metres from Newark’s line. Although the Newark scrum was penalised three times for scrummage offences, deliberately halting the home side’s progress, the official resisted brandishing a yellow card or awarding the expected penalty try.

When the referee blew for a fourth penalty, Tom Hooton raced up, took a quick tap and surged past defenders for what seemed a well-deserved try but the referee asked for the penalty to be taken again, much to the surprise of all.

The chance had gone and half-time came with Matlock leading 12-10.

Despite encouraging words from coach Alan Johnson, the second half began as badly as the first with dreadful defending allowing Newark in for another virtually unopposed try. The conversion made it 17-12 to Newark.

Matlock were quick to respond and quick hands sent Packard in for a try. Young again converted the difficult chance to restore Matlock’s lead at 19-17. The game then entered a period when both sides spurned opportunities.

Matlock had chances when their pack was pressing Newark’s line but too often scoring opportunities were wasted through unforced errors. Tom Hooton made a couple of try-saving tackles to keep the home side in the game and then had to leave the field with a calf injury, sustained after he had carved his way through the dogged Newark defence.

Newark regained the lead with another penalty and then had to repel an onslaught from Matlock in their attempts to clinch the victory.

Bad decisions and poor execution, together with brave defence, kept the Newark lead intact and, with two minutes remaining, Newark took advantage of more slack defence to score an unconverted try and claim a well-earned victory.

Matlock could not argue with the result on the day and now need to turn their attention to the build-up to their next league match, on Saturday away to Bedford Athletic (kick off 2.15pm).