Overcoming a scary second half, unbeaten Matlock completed a hat-trick of wins in their first three matches of the new season by beating Loughborough 19-13.
The success lifted Matlock to second place in the Midlands 2 East (North) division of the National League, only one point behind leaders West Bridgford.
But there were some lessons to be learned from the clash because, after a lively and commanding first-half performance, they were on the wrong end of a very high penalty-count for the first time this season after the break. Thankfully, it didn’t affect the final outcome, but they need to make sure they don’t give away so many unnecessary penalties.
The opening period began well, with the visitors’ solid defence heaping pressure on Loughborough, keeping them trapped in their own half for the first ten minutes and leading to a counter-attack that opened the scoring. Harry Boyd, Alex Powell, Simon Wright and James Young were all involved in the move before Tom Cruttenden crashed through several would-be tacklers to touch down in the corner.
Tom Morton’s conversion was wide, but he made no mistake second time round as Matlock added another try to surge into a 12-0 lead. This time Dan Hooton picked up a loose pass and danced around oncoming defenders, making good ground. Although the hosts turned over the ball at the breakdown, Matlock soon regained possession and Luke Howard glided in under the posts.
Loughborough finally registered their first score when squeezing over in the corner three minutes before half-time. But Matlock’s 12-5 advantage was soon extended to 19-5 after a few well-chosen words at the break from coach Dave Hartley. A rampaging run by Cruttenden broke the Loughborough line and the ball was whipped out to Boyd, who took a good line and cut back through the defence to dive over near the posts. Morton again added the extras.
Unfortunately, after this, the game became very scrappy. Matlock took a few wrong options and their earlier excellent control in possession deserted them. To make matters worse, the good discipline displayed so far this season became less evident and, as their defence became stretched, the home side reduced the deficit with their second try.
Matlock went close to a bonus-point try when the ball was knocked on with the try-line beckoning. But the concession of penalties increased their frustration, and from one of them, Loughborough added three more points to their tally before the visitors held out in the final moments.
This Saturday, Matlock travel to play Whitchurch in the Intermediate Cup.