A damp and cold Cromford Meadows was the setting for Matlock’s final game of the regular league season, as they welcomed near neighbours Ashbourne.
The home side knew a draw or a win would secure a play-off place in Midlands 2 East (North) and a 21-17 success sees them travel to Luton for a shot at promotion.
Matlock began well and after 12 minutes they were deservedly in front when powerhouse Tom Cruttenden burst through Ashbourne’s defensive line for the opening score. Tom Morton added the extras 7-0.
When Ashbourne had the ball their flyhalf kicked well for position and Matlock the paid the price for not clearing their lines properly. Instead of kicking the ball upfield they tried to play out of their 22 and Ashbourne charged down an attempted chip kick which eventually resulted in a converted try under the posts 7-7.
Stung by this score against the run of play Matlock’s response was instant. Ashbourne again kicked long for position and Matlock began to counter. The ball was moved to Harry Boyd in space out wide on the edge of the Matlock 22. Boyd set off at pace before sidestepping passed two more defenders to race away for a superb individual score. Morton added the extras 14-7.
As the half came to a close Matlock transgressed giving the visitors an easy shot at goal taking the half time score 14-10.
After a few well-chosen words at half time Matlock started brightly in the second half but an interception try gave the visitors an unexpected lead against the run of play 14-17.
Matlock became increasingly frustrated as the half wore on and with tempers fraying on both sides the game became more of an ugly arm wrestle than the spectacle it should have been.
Eventually though as the game entered the last 15 minutes Matlock strung together some good phases and after a period of concerted pressure they were awarded a scrum five metres from the Ashbourne line in front of the posts.
Matlock made a tactical exchange bringing on Ash Statham for his second stint in the front row. Tom Morton put the ball into the scrum and the power of the Matlock pack, boosted by the experience and destructive power of Statham, put in hugely powerful drive which saw the Ashbourne scrum simply disintegrate under the pressure and just as the referee seemed poised to award a penalty try Tom Morton picked up at the base to touch down.
Morton also added the extras giving Matlock a slender 21-17 lead.
Ashbourne applied the pressure late on but Matlock held firm to claim the win.