Leighton Buzzard 34
Matlock RFC 27
Matlock made the long journey to Leighton Buzzard in positive mood despite more enforced changes to the starting line-up.
With several members of the squad already on the injury list, the additional absence of Dave Hartley and late withdrawal by Tim Taylor led to further reshuffling, with Whittaker and the returning Coombes taking up unfamiliar roles in the back three.
The Midlands One East game began with Matlock playing up the pronounced slope and Young’s kick-off failed to carry the required ten metres.
From the resulting scrum, Buzzard showed their league position doesn’t reflect their ability and only a dropped pass prevented them scoring.
Minutes later, they crossed the line for a converted try.
Immediately, Matlock struck back with a Young penalty, only for Buzzard to add a second try and then score a third following a charge down, taking the score to 17-3.
Matlock were misfiring in the backs. However, Young continued to probe and when a Buzzard attack broke down in Matlock’s 22, Young quickly spotted an opportunity and kicked over the defence for Packard to show his paces and score his first try.
Young added the extras and Matlock were 17-10 down at half-time but still in touch despite not playing well.
Matlock had also lost Whittaker with a shoulder injury after a fine try-saving tackle. He was replaced by Morton.
A few strong words at half-time saw Matlock start strongly and another Young penalty reduced the arrears to 17-13.
However, this spell was short-lived as Buzzard went on to score three more tries in a ten-minute spell in which Matlock’s decision making was questionable and tackling was particularly sloppy.
To their credit, Matlock rallied again and scored two converted tries through the impressive Lewis Richardson and the pacy Packard to bring the score to 34-27.
At this point Matlock were finishing the stronger and looked likely to snatch the victory but an overlap was ignored when Howard would have had a simple run-in and then a definite try was disallowed after Cooper forced his way over but the referee was unfortunately unsighted.
Leighton Buzzard gratefully ground out the remaining few minutes for a win which was well deservedbut which had been largely handed on a plate leaving Matlock settling for a bonus point.
While this was a disappointing performance in many ways, it was good to see the character of the side to come back from 34-13 down and almost steal the win. Injuries to Whittaker and Bunting will however further test the depth of this young squad.
This result was a real wake-up call for the squad after the demolition of Ilkeston in the previous game.
They will have to work hard together this week in preparation for the next game, at home to Market Rasen & Louth, this Saturday (kick off 2.15pm).