Despite no competitive game since 27th February, Matlock showed no signs of rust as they breezed to a 32-3 win at Southwell.
With the home side confident after their recent away win at Newark and purportedly turning out their strongest side of the season, a depleted Matlock were relishing the prospect of playing again.
With Tom Stokes and Chris Atkinson unavailable Dave Ball started at tight head and James Harrod returned to the engine room of the second row. James Young was missing due to a broken ankle so James Fairclough moved to flyhalf and Harry Boyd came back in to the centre.
Coach Dave Hartley came onto the bench alongside Conor Loughnane and Rory Cookman. Matlock kicked off against a stiff breeze and in the early moments there were no signs of rust from the recent lack of game time. Matlock’s defensive structure was excellent from the off and when Southwell kicked for territory the visitors looked to run the ball, making good ground and making it difficult for the home side to get any real momentum.
Five minutes Matlock were camped in the Southwell 22, the home side transgressed at the breakdown and Tom Morton stepped up to slot the penalty kick.
The game continued with the home side finding it difficult to get out of their own half, despite playing with a stiff breeze.
On 14 minutes Southwell were penalised on halfway for hands in the ruck and Morton nudged the ball deep into the 22.
The catch at the lineout was clean and the drive that followed was unstoppable, resulting in Bolam touching down. The conversion attempt was wide but Matlock led 8-0.
Southwell then enjoyed a better period, enjoying more possession and territory thanks largely to a number of unnecessary penalties allowing them to kick for position.
However, unable to break down the solid Matlock defence they eventually settled for a penalty kick in front of the posts to get on the score board. Matlock were swift to respond and another penalty against the home side on halfway gave Morton the opportunity again to kick for the corner.
At the lineout a front of line move saw Simon Wright peel round the front and feed Bolam.
At the ruck the home defence were caught offside.
Matlock took a quick tap and at next ruck Bolam ran a great line to cut in and dive over for his second try on 35 minutes, Morton adding the extras.
Southwell mounted one final attack before half time and after several attacks had been repelled by the excellent Matlock defence they had a ruck five metres out in front of the posts.
The Southwell no.8 picked up turned and a drive was set up but Matlock’s defence remained strong and the maul was held up over the line and the referee brought the first half to an end.
The second half began and for 20 minutes, due the worsening conditions, the game became a bit of an arm wrestle in the middle of the pitch with both sides struggling to retain the ball for long periods with cold hands and a greasy ball not being conducive to flowing rugby.
Eventually Matlock began to regain the upper hand and on 63 minutes they increased their lead after a long period of pressure in the Southwell 22 resulted in a penalty 10m out in a kickable position.
A quick tap and go caught the home side off guard and the quick hands saw the ball shipped to Fairclough who went over in the corner. The kick attempt was off target .
Matlock were now controlling the game and further tries followed with Fairclough scoring a fine try after making a break just inside the Southwell half and Tom Cruttenden rewarded for another strong performance with the final score six minutes from time. Fairclough’s second was converted by Morton.
This was a really fine performance by the whole 18 man squad.
In very difficult conditions the handling and the defence throughout the side were exceptional.
It was almost impossible to pick one player out from the rest but James Harrod was named as man of the match for his tireless effort throughout the whole 80 minutes.
This weekend will be a real test of the depth of squad as they face Coalville at Cromford (3pm) with no less than five of this 18-man squad unavailable.