Brookes bows out with shield victory

Dan Hooton
Dan Hooton

MATLOCK RFC rounded off their long season in terrific fashion by beating Nottingham Casuals 64-29 on Sunday to lift the Notts, Lincs and Derbys shield.

Casuals arrived at Cromford Meadows having fought their way to the final, only to find that they were playing the host club, who had sailed to the final without playing a single game because their earlier round opponents had all conceded.

On the back of a very good season, gaining promotion from Midlands Three, Casuals took to the pitch with a mixture of confidence in their own ability and apprehension at what the next 80 minutes would bring. Matlock were almost at full strength with the added bonus of Ben Neville’s return at centre.

In the early exchanges, it was clear that the Casuals pack was going to have a long hard day as the tighter and better organised Matlock pack put them under huge pressure in the early scrums and driving mauls.

In addition, with pace throughout the Matlock backline, the Casuals defence was always going to be in for a busy afternoon.

Matlock, though, took some time to gain sufficient control and appeared uncharacteristically out of sorts with ball in hand as the Casuals defensive line tended to back off rather than come up to pressure the Matlock line.

The pre-agreed game plan of kicking to the corners also appeared to have been put on the back burner. Eventually Matlock got to grips with the difference in playing styles and started to cross the line at regular intervals.

The first score came from Packard after a bout of juggling and further tries followed from Powell and Neville. Unprepared to lie down in the face of a potential onslaught, Casuals came back with a try of their own, aided by some casual tackling by the Matlock side.

Further scores in the first half came from Packard, Brookes and Powell, with Casuals adding another couple of scores.

The second half should have been all Matlock but Casuals, to their credit, never stopped playing their own brand of rugby. Always in control of the game, Matlock continued to add more scores.

Packard achieved his hat trick, with other scores coming from Dan Hooton, Neville and Morton.

Making it an entertaining final, a plucky Casuals side added two further scores and the final whistle saw Matlock expected and convincing winners by 64 points to 29 with Chris Young having successfully converted seven of the ten tries scored.

Matlock now look forward to a rest after what has been a lengthy campaign, before starting preseason training and say farewell to coach Mike Brookes, who will be moving away from the area in the summer.

A spokesman for the club added: “We all wish Mike and his family well for the future and thank him for all his efforts on and off the field.”