Some sublime passages of play contributed to an entertaining game and a resounding 54-12 victory for Matlock at Ilkeston in their opening match of the new rugby union season.
Because Ilkeston had come down last term from the Midlands 1 East (North) Division in the National League, Matlock were prepared for a tough and tense encounter. But fielding no fewer than three sets of brothers in their squad, they showed tremendous teamwork and produced some terrific tries, as well as bags of individual flair, to reward all the hard work they have been putting in on the training ground.
In the first half, they had to play up the slope and against a stiff wind, and after a scoreless first 20 minutes, they fell behind when a loose pass was pounced on and the ball was kicked ahead for the Ilkeston winger to win the race for touchdown and a converted try.
Matlock responded superbly and were level within two minutes when a move, launched by a powerful run from Mike Allen on the right wing, ended with James Young throwing a fine pass that sent George Whittaker over in the corner. Tom Morton converted brilliantly from out wide.
Moments later, Ilkeston were back in front as they benefited from another error to lead 12-7. But remarkably, that proved to be the hosts’ final score of the game and by half-time, Matlock had turned the deficit into a 21-12 lead.
Allen was put into space for a free run and an excellent score before Young squeezed over in the corner after the visitors had gathered the ball from the kick-off and set off with pace, power and precision.
In the second period, Matlock had the advantage of the slope and the breeze, and Ilkeston found it difficult to find a way through their defence, with Tom Cruttenden, in particular, to the fore.
Young went over for his second try after good work by Tom Morton, whose conversion attempt was wide, and although he took a knock to the head in the act of scoring and had to leave the field, Matlock continued to press at every opportunity.
Another brilliant team-try, through Allen and converted by Morton, extended the lead to 33-12, which soon became 40-12 when Henry Morton got on the scoresheet for a try converted again by his brother.
Matlock had to play the last ten minutes a man down after Alex Powell was given a yellow card. But it didn’t stop them adding two more tries as Rob Glover leapt off the bench to blast his way through a home defender and then the impressive Cruttenden raced under the posts, with the reliable Tom Morton converting both.