Matlock were beaten 25-15 in their first encounter with Southwell to Cromford Meadows for many years.
With only one league place between the two teams a tight game was expected and the final score 15-25 probably flattered the visitors to some extent, especially considering an interception try and a penalty try which wasn’t given.
That said the Matlock performance was definitely out of sorts, with some poor handling and very questionable tackling playing whilst Southwell played with more continuity and precision.
Losing by only 10 points when you gift the opposition at least that many points means that this was a game Matlock could definitely have won.
The Matlock line up saw Fairclough and Howard return to the back line with Dixey joining Atkinson and Loughnane on the bench.
Matlock were hoping for a good performance to extinguish the memories of the debacle of the previous week, but the game couldn’t have started worse for them.
In the first minute Matlock looked to launch an attack when Hooton’s pass was intercepted gifting Southwell a valuable seven-point lead.
Matlock responded well and only moments later, when Young put Howard through a yawning gap in the visitor’s defence, a try looked certain.
But the finishing wasn’t clinical enough and from this point the pattern of the game was almost set.
Matlock continued to push and pulled three points back from a penalty, closely followed by a hard-earned try scored by Atkinson after good work by the pack and an excellent conversion by Morton to give the home side a deserved 10-7 lead.
Matlock were finding it difficult to find any continuity, especially at the breakdown, with Southwell constantly coming round the side to spoil possession without punishment from the referee.
In the set plays Matlock were also finding it challenging with the larger Southwell pack very solid in the scrums and monopolising the line-outs, their Australian ex-Nottingham second row making a huge difference between the two sides.
With such a good platform it was no surprise that the Southwell backs had a lot of go-forward ball and on a number of occasions they tested the normally solid Matlock defence to the full.
For the best part the defence scrambled well but the Southwell winger made the most of some slack defence to snatch back the lead.
Matlock then gave a way a soft penalty on the stroke of half-time to trail 15-10.
Matlock’s second half began just as badly as the first as the Southwell winger somehow ran through four or five very average tackle attempts to add another converted try extending their lead to 22-10.
To their credit Matlock began to work their way back in to the game, but on too many occasions they turned over the ball more often by a loose pass which prevented them getting the ball out into the wider channels where they looked most dangerous.
A Matlock score finally looked certain when a kick return by Fairclough put Howard into space.
As he raced towards the line he stepped inside the last defender for a certain score only to be stopped a desperate high tackle.
The referee immediately blew for the illegal challenge but for some inexplicable reason didn’t give a penalty try, even though a try would most certainly have been scored.
Although reduced to 14 men Southwell managed to defend the resulting tap penalty.
An angered Matlock were still not done and manufactured a very good try when Hooton worked up the tight side before slipping the ball to Wright who in turn fed Mike Allen to tip toe his way up the touch line to score in the corner.
The conversion attempt fell short but the score was now 22-15.
Matlock now threw caution to the wind and a great run by Dixey from the restart looked like bringing another score, but he couldn’t find the support players.
The game was finally taken out of the home side’s reach when the referee made a very dubious penalty call in the visitors’ favour and then moved it 10 metres nearer the line when his decision was questioned.
Southwell converted the penalty kick, making their lead safe and also robbing the home side of a possible losing bonus point.
That left lots to work in training next week leading up to this Saturday’s Intermediate Cup second round game away at Vipers (2.15 kick off) and with a growing injury list the season won’t get any easier.
Matlock’s second and third teams both recorded good wins over Southwell showing the club has good strength in depth.