Matlock stretch their lead at the top with narrow victory

Matlock took advantage of second-placed Coalville’s inactivity to stretch their lead at the top of Midlands Two East (North) to seven points, Melbourne beaten 15-13 at Cromford Meadows.

Without a game or much training for a fortnight, Matlock could have been forgiven for being a little rusty, but began well.

From the kick-off the first ten minutes saw Matlock with all the territory and possession but some questionable decision-making and poor ball retention at crucial times served to relieve the pressure that the visitors were clearly under.

However, after being camped in the Melbourne half, two penalties in quick succession against the home side saw Melbourne in a good attacking position for the first time and they showed Matlock how to take opportunities by crossing for a converted try.

Matlock looked to respond and on 20 minutes they conjured up a good score. Melbourne were penalised around half way and Tom Morton kicked to the corner. The catch and drive was good but stopped short of the line, followed by a couple of pick and go’s and then quick hands through the backs that saw George Whittaker feed Ben Neville to outpace the defence to cross in the corner. The conversion attempt fell short.

Matlock then had the perfect opportunity to take the lead. After strong drives by the pack had been successfully repelled by some desperate Melbourne defence, the ball was moved quickly but an attack of ‘white line fever’ meant a clear overlap and certain score went begging.

Once again Melbourne were awarded penalties allowing them to make a rare visit to the Matlock half and this time they came away with a successful penalty kick taking the half-time score to 10-5 in the visitors’ favour and much against the run of play.

Unfortunately the second half was a repeat of the first with Matlock clearly the better side enjoying the lion’s share of both territory and possession but too many wrong decisions, unforced errors and a lack of intensity and momentum continued to add to their obvious frustration.

Melbourne extended their lead on 65 minutes with a penalty kick to go 13-5 up, but Matlock then began to up the intensity and took the game by the scruff of the net.

Melbourne had a man yellow carded and on 72 minutes, from a scrum, Simon Wright dived over to touch down with Whittaker converting to bring Matlock to within a point.

Desperate defence by Melbourne then saw them pick up a second yellow card and eventually the pressure told and man-of-the-match Whittaker held his nerve to convert a penalty kick and Matlock finally had the lead with two minutes remaining, a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Despite Matlock, who head to Notts Casuals on Saturday, stretching their lead at the top, second-placed Coalville still have two games in hand.