The muddy marvels of Matlock celebrated only their second victory of the season in the Midlands 1 East division after another improved performance accounted for Bugbrooke.
On a day that saw Cromford Meadows beset by monsoon-like weather, open, flowing rugby was at a premium. But buoyed by their fine efforts at Bedford the previous week, relieved Matlock carved out a 31-26 win over their mid-table visitors.
The players were quick to acknowledge the benefits of Dave Hartley’s coaching, and they are now in a healthy frame of mind as they face three away games on the trot, starting this Saturday against old foes Derby (kick-off 2,15 npm), who sit as high as second in the table and have won eight of their nine matches so far.
Matlock were boosted by the return of the Wright twins, but were missing two regulars in vice-captain Nick Coombes and winger Luke Howard and suffered a late blow when fly-half James Fairclough’s car broke down.
As the rain teemed down, it was soon clear that the match was going to be an 80-minute battle of attrition and one of small margins. Therefore, both sides deserved credit for trying to move the ball and providing lots of entertainment.
Matlock opened the scoring with a try that was converted by Henry Morton, only for a familiar lapse in defensive concentration to allow Bugbrooke straight back into the game with a fine individual try.
The home side were soon back on the offensive and although there were no further scores before the interval, Morton was unlucky when a penalty attempt came back off the upright.
The second half was just as closely contested, although neither side could keep control or possession for long periods in the conditions.
A period of Matlock pressure led to Ben Neville crashing over. But their Achilles heel struck again as the visitors hit back to level immediately, and this was followed by another aberration that gave Bugbrooke a narrow advantage.
Back came Matlock with another try, this time from Ashley Statham, and as their style of play began to pay dividends, they punched holes in a tiring Bugbrooke defence, going 24-19 up when Adam Twyford burrowed over in the corner. The lead was increased again with a Dan Hooton try and although the visitors refused to give up, Matlock held on deservedly.