Matlock RUFC turned in another fine display to beat Spalding 38-19.
Matlock had to make no fewer than seven changes to the previous week’s squad. With Dave Hartley, Mike Allen and Josh Dixey all unavailable, James Young, Ben Neville and James Fairclough slotted comfortably into the back line and Charlie Jackson returned to the flank as a straight swap for Tom Cruttenden.
On the bench Rory Cookman and Alex Powell, both returning from injury were joined by a svelte looking Adam Twyford making his return to first team rugby after a long layoff due to injury.
Spalding were looking for their first win of the season having lost two games by a very narrow margin one of those games being against Loughborough, the league leaders before this round of games.
The game kicked off and the first 15 minutes was a slow affair with most of the play taking place in the middle of the park with the home side showing little adventure and the visitors looking rather heavy legged as they worked to run off the long journey.
Eventually Matlock’s superiority began to show and on 18 minutes the first try came.
Having worked their way into Spalding’s 22 and were penalised for holding on at the breakdown.
Spalding’s attempted kick for touch was brilliantly kept in play by Simon Wright, Mike Gunter fielded the loose ball and passed to Luke Howard on halfway who picked a great line and pinned his ears back to race past would be tacklers to score a superb individual try in the corner.
Morton’s conversion attempt fell short but that spark of brilliance ignited the visitors and two minutes later they conjured up another great score.
Matlock won a Spalding scrum against the head on halfway, Wright picked up and fed Hooton on the crash ball.
The ball was quickly recycled and John Statham straightened up the attack creating space out wide for Gunter to power up the touchline to score.
Again the kick from wide out was off target but Matlock had a 10-0 lead. On the half hour Matlock extended their lead further with a great team try which began in their own 22.
Spalding had finally ventured into the Matlock 22 but were penalised for hands in the ruck. Morton kicked to touch and from the line put in a great box kick which James Young won superbly.
From the ruck John Statham picked up and broke down a tight space on the blind side making a good 25 metres before being brought down.
The ball was quickly recycled through quick hands for Luke Howard to cut through and touch down for his second try. Morton added the extras to make it 17-0. As the clock ran down to half time Matlock gave away an unnecessary penalty giving Spalding a great field position with a five metre line out.
The Spalding throw missed its intended target but fell kindly for their player at the back of the line who only had to gather the ball and fall over the line for the try. The half time score 5-17 did not reflect the gulf in skill sets between the two sides.
The second half began with the home side trying to intimidate the visitors with some unsavoury off the ball tactics. Matlock responded well to this physical approach which within five minutes of the restart culminated in a yellow card for each side following a group hand-bagging session.
Matlock settled back down to concentrate on playing rugby. On 50 minutes Matlock scored the bonus point try following a great counter attack by Alex Powell.
Great support play and inter passing took Matlock deep in the Spalding 22 and with the Spalding defence creaking under the pressure the ball came to John Statham who threw a dummy pass and side stepped his way over near the posts.
Morton added the conversion to make it 24-5. Both sides were returned to their full complement of players on 55 minutes and Matlock remained in control. Spalding were finding it difficult to get out of their own half other than by kicking but this too brought them little success.
On 60 minutes Matlock crossed for their fifth try when an attempted chip through came back off Spalding player into the hands of James Young who raced 22 metres to touch down in the corner. Tom Morton’s conversion was wide out was superbly struck to make it 31-5.
Still Matlock were not done and another good team score was created when a great half break by Ben Neville was taken on by Dan Hooton before he was stopped just short of the line.
Matlock were awarded a scrum and the pack who had played superbly throughout this match showed great strength and technique to push the Spalding pack back over their own line for scrum half Tom Morton to touch down. Morton added the extra’s to his own score to make it 38-5.
As Matlock relaxed and reflected on a job well done Spalding somehow engineered a consolation score in the corner with the last play of the match. The conversion attempt was wide and the final whistle brought an end to the match and another emphatic victory for Matlock.
This was another good team performance but stronger challenges lie ahead so it is imperative that the squad continue to improve and to work hard in training. Adam Twyford’s performance off the bench was also very encouraging and brings increased competition for places which can only add to the collective effort within the squad.