Matlock’s title challenge continued with a 30-15 win over bottom-of-the-table Ashby on Saturday.
The win keeps Matlock four points clear at the top, with second-placed Coalville still having a game in and and set to come to Cromford Meadows on March 28.
George Whittaker saw an early try ruled out after being adjudged to have lost the ball in the act of scoring, but two minutes later the hosts lead as Jack Ritchie went over following good work by the returning Tim Taylor. Tom Morton added the extras.
Only a minute later and against the run of play Ashby responded with a try as they kicked a penalty into the corner and their tallest player caught and drove to score in the corner, the conversion missed.
Matlock saw Luke Crofts yellow carded following a scuffle on 16 minutes and Ashby then took the lead with another unconverted try that was almost a carbon copy of the first to take a 10-7 lead.
Matlock then took the game back to Ashby and were denied another try from Harry Morton when the referee called the last pass forward.
Matlock stuck to the task in hand and kept running the ball and stretching the Ashby defence. On 32 minutes Ashby were penalised for offside at the ruck and Tom Morton converted the penalty to level the scores.
Five minutes later Matlock regained the lead. A quick tap penalty around half way saw Dave Hartley find Dan Hooton who scythed through a gap and raced up the wing before drawing the full-back and passing to Whittaker who stepped and raced away to score an unconverted try to make the score 15-10.
After some strong but well-directed words at half-time Matlock came out strongly and within five minutes had increased their lead.
From a scrum, the drive was short of the line so the ball was picked up and with the Ashby defence under pressure Hartley quickly went blind and fed Ben Howard who stepped inside the first tackle and showed good strength to burrow over for a try. Morton converted from out wide for a 22-10 lead.
A penalty then added three more points to the lead after Lewis Richardson had been stopped when on the charge, and with a relatively safe 25-10 buffer Matlock then went all out for the allusive bonus point try but a couple of silly penalties saw Ashby once in again in familiar territory for their most potent attacking weapon the catch and drive which saw them come away with their third unconverted try.
A frustrated Matlock side then regrouped and played some of their best rugby, culminating in Whittaker forcing his way over in the corner for the bonus point try and to seal the win.
This weekend sees a break from the league campaign with a trip to Kesteven for the NLD Shield semi-final, kick off 2.45pm.
The league resumes the following week with a trip to neighbours Bakewell Mannerians for a 3pm kick-off, title rivals Coalville the visitors the following week.