A below-par performance got what it deserved as Matlock sank to only their second defeat of the National League season away to Nottingham Casuals.
The young Matlock side were let down by a lack of patience, control, confidence and precision at crucial times to go down 24-8 after winning four of their opening five league fixtures.
Both they and improving Casuals are now two of four teams locked on 19 points in the Midlands 2 East (North) table, all six points behind leaders West Bridgford.
Despite fielding a changed side, Matlock started well, pinning Casuals back in their own 22, but they were caught napping by a deft chip and an unlucky bounce that eventually led to the home team’s first try, scored all too easily.
The introduction from the bench of Dave Ball added some much-needed experience, guile and power to the pack, and Matlock hit back, reducing the deficit to 7-3 when Tom Morton slotted a penaalty after Casuals had infringed at the ruck.
The game developed into an even contest, but the visitors appeared to be playing only at half their normal pace and were making too many unforced errors at times, gifting possession back to Casuals.
A classic example came when young fly-half Lewis Burford fumbled the ball as he reached for a Morton pass that was too short for him, and a gleeful opponent pounced for a try that was converted to put the hosts 14-3 up at the break.
Coach Dave Hartley have an honest appraisal of what had been a poor first 40 minutes by Matlock’s standards, and a for time in the second half, they upped their game, scoring a well-taken try when George Whittaker bounced through two would-be tacklers after good passes by Morton and Dan Hooton.
The conversion was missed, however, and more mistakes crept into Matlock’s display. When they conceded a penalty to fall 17-8 behind, they had to take more and more risks, playing catch-up rugby, and as a result, a loose pass enabled Casuals to race away and score another converted try to seal their victory.
This Saturday (2.15 pm), Matlock entertain Southwell.