A top-of-the-table trip to West Bridgford ended in disappointment and a first defeat of the new season for youthful Matlock in the National League.
Both sides had started the Midlands 2 East (North) division season in style, winning their first three matches. But Matlock’s toughest test yet proved to be a sobering experience for probably the youngest squad they have ever fielded at first-team level and led to a 42-7 reverse.
Now they must hope to get back on track this coming Saturday (kick-off 2.15 pom) when they entertain Newark, another of the early-season high-fliers.
While the forward pack was almost at full strength, the backline needed something of an overhaul with four players missing from the previous game.
Also out were the experienced quintet of Dan Hooton, Harry Morton, Luke Howard, George Whittaker and Dave Hartley, while James Fairclough, Mike Allen and Josh Dixey remained on the injury list.
It meant opportunities for the youngsters to stake their claim but, from the off, playing against a strong wind, Matlock struggled to find any tempo. The fired-up and well-organised home side took advantage of early territorial advantage to open the scoring in the tenth minute when their hooker strolled through for a far-too-simple, converted try.
The visitors picked themselves up to level when Chris Atkinson forced his way over the line and Tom Morton added the extras. But that proved to be the last time Matlock made the scoresheet. Bridgford used the elements well, with intelligent kicking pinning Matlock deep in their own half for long periods, and they added two more converted tries to build a 21-7 lead by the interval.
The visitors still believed they were in the game, and they dominated the opening 15 minutes of the second half. But a lack of patience and control when close to the line cost them dear, especially during a spell when Bridgford were down to 14 men. Opportunities were wasted and, with them, the chance to get back into the contest.
As the half progressed, Matlock tired from having to defend for longer periods than they are normally used to, and this led to gaps appearing that were clinically exploited by the hosts, who increased their lead to 28-7.
Matlock’s frustration grew to such an extent that one of their players received two yellow cards, meaning he could take no further part in the match. Bridgford duly took full advantage and scored two more tries to complete their win.
On the plus side, the youngsters who did step in for the game did put in good, solid performances.