Matlock RFC 1sts were looking to continue their good form against rivals Derby at a windy Haslams on Saturday.
But eventually Alan Johnson’s men came away from the short trip south empty-handed, as they went down to an 18-9 Midlands One East defeat.
Matlock started playing with the wind and the first 20 minutes was an even affair in terms of terrority.
However, the visitors edged ahead thanks to two Chris Young penalties, both from around 30 metres out. Derby then started to take the upper hand and were stretching the Matlock defence.
Neville and Hooton in particular were putting in numerous tackles in the backs as Derby spread the ball side to side.
Matlock relied on the boot of Chris Young to get them out of trouble on a number of occasions. Matlock were under the cosh for the last ten minutes of the half as the Derby backs ran hard and straight and eventually a missed tackle saw Derby score near to the posts.
The conversion was missed.
Just before half-time, Derby scored again out on the touchline.
Their backs received quick ball and Matlock were struggling to organise an effective defensive wall.
The conversion was missed at the end of the first half.
Half-time arrived and, as the Derby team headed for the changing rooms, the consensus was that Matlock needed to keep the ball in hand, go through the phases and take the game to their hosts.
The second half didn’t start as planned as, five minutes in, Derby scored on the touchline, which looked questionable as there appeared a knock-on during the play. Again, the conversion was squandered.
Matlock made a change with Tom Morton replacing James Young at scrum half.
n Continued on page 31
Now it was time for the Matlock forwards to test the Derby defence as they worked their way up from the halfway line to the Derby 22. An infringement from Derby led Young to reduce the arrears to 15-9.
Derby hit back with a short period of pressure where they had a try-scoring chance that was prevented by an excellent cover tackle from Whittaker.
Derby did manage to score some points on their rare visit to the Matlock half with a penalty goal to make the score 18-9. Matlock regrouped and, for the remaining 20 minutes, produced their best rugby of the match. Good work from Ben Neville started the play as made 20 metres.
The ball was then recycled and Morton fed the likes of Richardson, Cooper and Twyford, who were running hard and low at the Derby defence as they made their way to the Derby five-metre line.
This was eventually halted by Derby. However, concerns were being raised from Matlock as the Derby defence were constantly in breach of the back foot of the ruck, which was not being punished. Eventually, the referee became aware of encroachment and sin binned a Derby forward. Matlock could have elected for the kickable penalty for a bonus point but took the game to Derby again and the Matlock backs started to look for work around the fringes.
After numerous drives towards the line, the organised Derby defence held firm right to the death and managed to force the error which ended the match. Matlock can be left disappointed not to get anything out of the game given their second half possession and efforts. Great credit goes to the whole squad for the grit and determination which was there in abundance. However, there was not enough guile to break down the Derby defence.
This is something coach Alan Johnson will be looking to address at training in the week, ahead of another tough encounter on Saturday at Ilkeston, who sit two places above Matlock. Kick off is at 2.15pm.