MATLOCK RFC achieved a creditable fifth place in the Midlands One East despite a 50-27 loss at struggling Nuneaton Old Edwardians that proved to be a game of two distinct halves.
Alan Johnson’s side raced into a 27-0 lead thanks to two tries from Henri Packard, one each from James Young and George Whittaker plus two conversions and a penalty.
But that was as good as it got. The hosts, bottom at the start of play, had to win to stand any chance of staying up and they came back with a vengeance, although ultimately their victory was in vain.
The Matlock coach explained: “Almost the first time we touched the ball, we scored a try and it seemed every time we had it, we scored.At 27-0, I think some of the lads thought that was it and we were on for 60 or 70 points. But Nuneaton were fighting for their lives and had to win to have any chance of staying up. I felt for them because they ended up going down as all of the bottom four beat teams in the top six which is highly unusual.
“They stepped it up, they had a big set of lads, they ran at us and lots of holes appeared for them to exploit. They were still going strong at the end and could have added more tries if we’d gone on a bit longer.”
Alan Johnson continued: We had a few injutries that didn’t help. George Whittaker and Scott Robinson had to go off and Tim Taylor came on but ended playing the last 20 minutes with a broken thumb and what turned out to be a broken jaw, so that was quite an effort from him.
“We were desperate for final whistle, to be truthful. They played very well, they got us playing their game, in among their big lads and there was a very partisan crowd, where one or two of our lads perhaps let their comments get to them. I think some had one eye on the Derbyshire Cup final and thought it was job done.
“Nevertheless, I’m chuffed to bits to finish fifth. We did really really well to achieve that and it would fantastic to add to that by ending with a cup win as well.”
The season ends on Sunday with the Derbyshire Cup final, against either Ilkeston or Derby. Their semi-final was due to be played last night (Wednesday), with Matlock meeting the winners in a game at The Stute, home of Ilkeston.
Alan Johnson concluded: “Whether it’s against Derby or Ilkeston, I think we go into the game as underdogs. We owe ourselves a good perfornance against both of them, and of course the fact they’re both local rivals adds to it.
“Derby were the only team to do the double over us this season. We should have beaten them at our place and at theirs we should have taken a bonus point when we had the chance to do so.
“We let ourselves down last time out against Ilkeston so that’s something we want to put right if given the chance. If we play anything like we have done in the last six weeks, we’ve got a good chance to beat either of them.”