MATLOCK RFC 1sts got their pre-season programme of matches off to a fine start by retaining their Matlock Tens Tournament title at Cromford Meadows on Saturday.
16 teams from across the region travelled to compete in the annual event, which takes place at the same time as a popular beer festival.
Special guest on the day was Matt Hampson, the former England rugby player, who presented Matlock with their winners’ trophy after a long, hot day of competitive rugby for those involved.
Matlock A saw off the challenge of Belper, Derby Colts and Notts Medics in the group stage, before beating their own B team in the quarter-finals and getting the better of Derby A in the semi-finals, taking on Burton A in the final and defeating them 21-7.
For coach Alan Johnson, the well-supported event was just the job for his players as they continue their progress towards the start of the Midlands One East season on September 1.
He explained: “We retained our title but it was not just about winning, the depth of the squad was the real winner on the day because our B team did well too and showed how many good players we’ve got here.
“The A team didn’t concede a single try in the group games and was looking really good.
“Unfortunately, we then beat our B team, which was a shame because we’d have liked to have seen them go further, as well as the A team.
“We only conceded two tries in the whole tournament, which was terrific, and it also showed off our fitness levels on what was a long and hot day.
“We tried to run with it, rather than drawing contact and we showed that all the lads could handle the ball well.
“We moved the oppositions’ defences around, which was good to see, and although it’s not 15-a-side, I think this is still a really important stepping stone in our pre-season programme.”
He continued: “We showed that, on the day, we had an outstanding group of lads.
“In particular, I was really impressed with Dan Hooton, as well as Matt Goodall, who has joined from Amber Valley and did really well in the B team, and with George Whittaker, who finished as the tournament’s leading try scorer and was superb.
“It’s also worth mentioning that our former player/coach Mikes Brookes came up from London, played for our B team and brought his unique personality and humour to the proceedings!
“We were all delighted to see him again.
“All in all, it was a very well-organised event by Matt Hughes and many people commented on how well-run the tournament and Beer Festival were, and how they were looking forward to it next year.”
Alan Johnson concluded: “Next up is a pre-season game at home to Bakewell Mannerians on August 11, which we are looking forward to.
“They did really well in the Tens before going out in the semis, which is a shame because it would have been great to play them in the final.
“As they proved at the Tens, they’ve got a good young squad with plenty of talent so it should be a good pre-season test for both sides.”