Matlock sign off for season by taming the champions

James Fairclough on his way to scoring a try in Matlock's excellent victory over champions Melbourne.
James Fairclough on his way to scoring a try in Matlock's excellent victory over champions Melbourne.

Determined Matlock spoiled the promotion party of champions Melbourne and made a statement about their own ability in the last match of the season.

Melbourne had already clinched the Midlands 2 East (North) title in the National League, but they were rocked by a 19-7 defeat, inflicted by an inspired Matlock outfit, who end up in fourth spot, only eight points behind.

It was a fantastic way to round off the campaign, with every player outstanding, particularly Tom Cruttenden. It was also the perfect way to complete warrior Ash Statham’s record of playing in every game this term and to bid farewell to John Statham, whose skills and flair will be sadly missed as he embarks on a trip to Australia.

From the kick-off, Matlock were into their stride, playing with high intensity, pace and control and forcing Melbourne to defend desperately. Their pack gave a lesson in scrummaging and as they produced some sublime rugby, they were rewarded with a fine opening try when James Fairclough glided through a hole in the defence to touch down.

Not even a yellow card for Tim Taylor could upset Matlock’s rhythm as their seven-man scrum continued to push pack the visitors’ eight with apparent ease.

The hosts looked dangerous whenever they had the ball, with James Young, industrious at inside-centre, making several half-breaks, and it was only a matter of time before they scored again as they became camped in the Melbourne 22. The pressure finally told as Matlock’s scrum drove back the Melbourne pack for the umpteenth time and Simon Wright claimed the try.

A successful conversion, followed by a magnificent saving tackle at the other end by Marcus Bolam, gave the home side a 12-0 lead by the interval. So it was a shade disappointing that they gifted Melbourne a foothold in the game early in the second period by conceding a couple of silly penalties. These gave them good field position for a successful catch and drive to score out wide, and the conversion cut the deficit to 12-7.

However, Matlock came straight back and after a close shave, they restored the 12-point lead when Chris Atkinson was in support to take a pass and race 22 metres to touch down under the posts.

There were no more points, but Matlock’s defence continued to frustrate a Melbourne side seemingly bereft of flair and ideas.