Matlock so close to toppling local rivals

Ben Neville, Matlock RFC.
Ben Neville, Matlock RFC.

A THRILLING exhibition of rugby was served up on Saturday at sun-soaked Cromford Meadows as Matlock RFC eventually lost their tight Midlands One East encounter 34-27 to local rivals – and league leaders – Derby.

Matlock’s coach Alan Johnson was justifiably proud of the team’s effort and performance against a side who had claimed maximum points from all their previous league games this season. No other side to date has prevented Derby from gaining the four-try bonus point or gained a losing bonus point against them.

He added that, despite this second league loss of the season, if his side continues to build on this performance and escapes too many injuries, Matlock’s squad is a force to reckon with.

Both sides made late changes due to the withdrawal of the Coombes brothers, one from either side.

Matlock were already showing two changes with Hartley at full back for the unavailable Powell and Noble returning to shore up the second row alongside Tim Taylor. Wagg started on the flank in place in Coombes.

Matlock had only been able to train once in the week as a consequence of the power outage throughout the area but it didn’t seem to have affected them. The early exchanges gave the promise of the exciting rugby to follow as it soon became evident Matlock had the upper hand in the scrums.

Both sides showed intent to move the ball at every opportunity, testing each other’s defence and the large crowd played their part in cheering on their teams at every opportunity.

Opening exchanges were fairly equal but it was Derby who scored first on nine minutes with a penalty from fullback Matt Down.

This was cancelled out two minutes later by a Chris Young penalty.

Down then slotted another penalty on 17 minutes. Matlock’s forwards started to assert more control and a score looked likely but a poor pass forced Hooton to fall on the loose ball.

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Derby’s defensive effort at the ruck was too vigorous for the referee’s liking and they were penalised. Dan Hooton left the field with an inflicted shoulder injury as a result and was replaced by Goodall. Matlock chose to kick for the corner and from a catch and drive the maul was driven over the line for Taylor to touch down. The conversion was missed but Matlock had a narrow 8-6 lead. Matlock’s forwards continued to work their opponents hard and another score followed on the half hour when Cooper showed his strength to force his way over. Young converted and Matlock were 15-6 ahead. Moments later Matlock were sure they had scored again when Shooter stretched out for the line. The referee rather bizarrely requested the linesman opinion before deciding he had been unsighted and disallowed the try which if given would have made it an uphill struggle for this strong Derby side. Half time never comes at a good time when you are in front. Almost immediately after the restart Derby reduced the arrears with a try from Mikey Robertson albeit there was more than a hint that the scoring pass was a yard and a half forward. Matlock came straight back at Derby and were rewarded with two more Young penalty kicks taking the score to 21-11. Still Derby were not beaten and the next ten minutes saw them take the lead 21-24 by virtue of two penalties and a converted try again not without some controversy in the build up. The game was end to end with both sides still intent on spinning the ball out and testing each other’s defence. Matlock again began to gain the upper hand and two more penalties by Young saw Matlock’s lead restored 27-24. Derby’s kicker was not to be outdone striking a fine 45 yard penalty to even the scores with 8 minutes to play. Young was then narrowly wide with a penalty attempt before Derby finally sealed the match. Matlock had an attacking scrum on the Derby 22 the ball and seemed in control when squirted out and was turned over by the Derby scrum half. The Matlock defence which had been steadfast all day was breached allowing Derby to score a converted try with only two minutes remaining. A very relieved Derby held out the remaining time for the narrowest of victories.

This week, Matlock are away to league newcomers Loughborough, kicking off at 3pm. All travelling support is most welcome.