Matlock RUFC were left celebrating one of their most memorable victories over old rivals Derby, wining 31-15 away, having scored 31 unanswered points from being 15-0 down.
This was a great result and bonus point to take Matlock out of the bottom three and left them ruing earlier games they should definitely have won.
The players had been asked by their skipper to give everything and they certainly responded to his call.
While the pack as a whole were immense it’s hard to remember a better performance from Adam Twyford, Tom Wright put in a great shift again at No 8 and Tom Morton mixed the game up well at scrum half.
Jack Wagg showed he still has much to offer this squad and Charlie Jackson’s engine is unbelievable along with all that shouting.
Being able to field a more settled side over recent weeks has brought more continuity together with a growing confidence and self-belief as shown in the previous weeks much needed home win. However with Derby enjoying a successful season so far and sitting second in the table it would take a special effort to get anything from this match.
The squad saw a couple of strengthening changes for this match with Luke Howard returning on the wing and Nick Coombes on the back row as a straight swap for the unavailable Tim Taylor who has been a mainstay of the side.
Playing conditions were good apart from the Arctic-like chill in the air.
From the kick off a clearly fired up Matlock exploded out of the blocks and for the first 10 minutes had Derby under pressure pinned deep in their own half.
An early catch and drive from the line gave notice of the power advantage over a surprisingly lightweight looking Derby pack.
The drive was stopped short of the line and to their credit a hard-working Derby defence managed to weather the early storm.
Neville then left the field for treatment to a rib injury and Dixey came off the bench. Matlock continued to take the game to Derby, but with 12 minutes gone one mistake gave the home side much needed possession which they used to good effect with Marlowe making a telling break and the ball being quickly recycled giving the Derby wing a far too easy run in under the posts for a converted try against the run of play.
Neville returned to the fray but was clearly struggling with the injury.
A buoyed Derby began to throw the ball around and another moment of slack defence gave them their second try out wide for a 12-0 lead with the conversion attempt sailing wide.
Derby increased their lead further with a penalty in front of the posts.
This could easily have turned into a day to forget for Matlock, but they have discovered another edge to their game and they regrouped and playing with a mixture of passion and power they began to put some good phases together and inch their way back into the game and into the opposition half.
With Neville leaving the field again closely followed by Crattenden with a back problem, Dixey and Wagg joined the fray.
Matlock continued to build momentum with good running lines by Atkinson, Simon Wright and Coombes backed up by strong carries from Twyford, Tom Wright and Goodall and with Jackson and Wagg covering every blade of grass in support.
With 35 minutes on the clock Matlock produced a fine team score.
From a ruck on halfway Morton put up a box kick which was fielded by the Derby wing who passed inside to his full back who knocked on just inside his 22.
At the resulting scrum the Matlock pack boosted by the power of Statham drove back the Derby pack some distance. The ball was then fed to the backs and a rehearsed miss move saw Fairclough feed Dixey who strode through the first tackle then raced away to touch down.
Morton’s conversion attempt was wide. But Matlock now sensed a turning tide and on 39 minutes were back on the scoreboard.
Simon Wright picked up from a scrum and was brought down. Wagg picked up and turned, the driving maul was quickly formed and as they looked certain to drive over for the try the maul was deliberately collapsed by Derby.
The referee had no hesitation and went under the posts to award a penalty try to take it 15-12.
Coombes caught the restart and kicked the ball to touch allowing the referee to blow the half-time whistle.
The second half kicked off and the swing in momentum was evident.
The Matlock side were energised and hungry, the defensive line with Hooton and Harry Morton in the middle was solid and organised and slowly the Matlock side began to wear down the opposition through a dominant pack and playing in the right parts of the field.
Derby were struggling to find a foothold in the game and with Fairclough and Morton both kicking well out of hand the game was increasingly being played in the Derby half.
Matlock attacked well down the left with Boyd showing good strength and footwork in equal measure with the attack ending in a Derby lineout close to their own line.
The Derby drive was halted and then Derby knocked on. At the resulting scrum the Matlock pack drove the Derby pack over the line for Simon Wright to touch down.
Morton’s conversion attempt was again wide but Matlock now had a slender but much deserved 15-17 lead with 67 minutes played.
Moments later the lead was extended. Matlock had Derby again under pressure just outside their own 22. With the speed of the Matlock defensive line closing down the Derby attacking potential the Derby fly half attempted a chip kick over the advancing defenders.
The execution was poor and his sliced kick was gratefully caught by Atkinson who showed good pace to gallop away to touch down under the posts. Morton added the extras to give Matlock some breathing space at 24-15.
Derby refused to lie down and mounted an attack but Matlock’s defence was now unshakeable even when reduced to 14 men when Harry Boyd was rather harshly yellow carded when his attempted turnover at the ruck looked to be fair.
The Matlock tactic was now to make Derby play from deep and so at every opportunity they kicked long making Derby have to attack from long range.
With the clock running down the final Matlock score made the result safe. From a scrum on halfway Tom Morton put in a great kick towards the corner, Hooton put in a great chase and tackled the Derby player on his line.
Wagg was quickly on hand to try and steal the ball for a simple dot down try but the tackled Derby player would not release.
For the second time in the match the referee had no hesitation in going under the posts for the penalty try. Morton added the extras.
Next week sees Matlock on the road again with a long journey for another difficult encounter with Huntingdon and District kick off 2.15pm.