Newly-promoted Matlock’s hopes of a dream start to the new rugby union season in the Midlands 1 East division were crushed by a heavy defeat at Market Rasen and Louth.
With no fewer than eight players unavailable because of holidays, injury or work commitments, Matlock were unable to repeat the convincing and stylish cup display of the previous week and fell 41-12.
The strength in depth of the squad was tested to such an extent for the trip to Lincolnshire that stalwart and team manager Simin Greer found himself named on the bench.
To make matters worse, they faced a Rasen team at virtually full strength and boasting a huge pack that outweighed their visiting counterparts by at least a stone per man.
This proved to be the major contributory factor in the outcome as the lightweight Matlock pack struggled uncharacteristically to win any clean ball from the scrum, leaving the side to feed off scraps and turnover ball for most of the match. Not even the return of Matt Goodall and Johnny Bunting to the front row could help the retreating scrums.
Club spokesman Colin Baker said: “Considering all, it was a brave and spirited performance. Many positives can still be taken from the match and be built on in the weeks ahead. Heads never went down and the side continued to play some very good rugby.”
Indeed Matlock held their own during the opening exchanges, even though their defensive line was tested by the strong-running Rasen forwards. But a penalty and a converted try soon left them facing an uphill struggle.
The division’s new boys were also reminded of the pace and intensity of rugby at this level and despite sticking manfully to the task of stemming the tide, they found themselves 20-0 down by the 23rd minute after another converted try and a penalty.
Pluckily, Matlock responded with a well-worked try of their own to get on the scoresheet. The move was started and finished by skipper Dan Hooton, who scampered over the line.
However, Hooton had to leave the field moments later when both he and the Rasen prop were shown a yellow card for a scuffle off the ball, and with the Matlock midfield defence disorganised, the home side added a soft try to go in at half-time 27-5 to the good.
The team talk at the interval was positive and well structured, with Hooton encouraging his troops to continue working hard. However, the second half could not have started much worse as the large Rasen prop was allowed to catch the ball and set off on a 30-yard charge before loading to a teammate, who rampaged through three attempted tackles to score under the posts.
Undeterred, Matlock soon began to find more gaps in the home defence, playing some enterprising rugby, and they were rewarded with a converted try by Nick Coombes, who used his pace and power to good effect.
But despite man-of-the-match Charlie Jackson covering every blade of grass in a display that epitomised the visitors’ spirit, Rasen remained in control, adding another try and continuing to enjoy the lion’s share of possession.
Matlock are now hoping to bounce back to winning ways when they travel to meet fellow promoted club, Wellingborough, in a big game this Saturday (kick-off 3 pm).