Saturday saw Derby City's Merit team travel to Buxton rugby league club, newly formed out of the remains of Hope Valley rugby league. Last season's matches between the clubs were highly competitive with Derby's Premier team coming out winners on both occasions. This time the Merit team travelled with a mixed experience team, providing debut's to three players Tom Pottinger, Adam Norris and Lewis Sturgess, a reflection that popularity of both Derby City and rugby league in the area is continuing in a positive way.
Derby's warm up and preparation disappointed captain Jon Doughty and this was further reflected the moment the game commenced. The home sides strong runners immediately started making dents in the Derby defence. The scrum half started dictating the plays in both directions and with Derby allowing the opposition time and distance to generate their momentum tries were inevitable After only ten minutes Buxton broached the City line on two occasions, each were converted with ease. Buxton 12 Derby City 0.
Finally in the fourteenth minute Derby moved the ball firstly right but a quick play by pivot Rob Brown changed this direction with Jack Pearce drawing his man and sending Owen Gregory the short distance over the line to score an un-converted try. Buxton 12 Derby City 4.
Buxton continued to make yards and test the slowly improving Derby defence however the away team were the next to score with possibly the best try of the game. Again involving both Brown and Pearce, the ball was played from the centre pushing the ball out to centre Jack Wilkinson who quickly provided winger Adam Walker the ball. Walker had only a small space to work in with the touchline to his right and with the Buxton defence quickly closing him down he used his strength and speed to cross in the far right corner for his 2nd try of the season. Buxton 12 Derby City 8.
The home side regrouped and looked to work down the left side of Derby's half. Rewarded by a poor catch and knock on the pendulum swung quickly back to Buxton. Buxton went through their set of tackles with a final kick to the Derby try line. Derby then assisted in their own downfall with horizontal running, poor playing of the ball and panic passing. From the resulting scrum restart Buxton burst through a weak Derby defence with their second row scoring close to the post, converted to give Buxton a lead of 10. Derby immediately bounced back with vast yardage gains from runners Adam Burrows and full back Lewis Thompson. Fourth tackle saw hooker Doughty cross the whitewash from a couple of metres for his trademark try. Half time Buxton 18 Derby City 12.
Second half saw Derby playing now with the sun and wind into their faces with all the work to do. Any talk that had taken place at half time went out of the window as silly mistakes continued to creep into the Derby game and players inexperience showed. Derby spent the next 10 minutes camped in their 20 metre area defending bravely and forcing the home side to consider other options. City kept their structure however when they took control of the ball a wrong option run or poor ball retention eventually handed the ball back to Buxton. In the 58th minute Derby were finally broached from the short distance as the home sides centre twisted and turned to cross the line. Buxton 22 Derby City 12.
Just six minutes later Doughty took his opportunity again and scored his tenth try of the season just left of the post. Converted by Thompson. Buxton 22 Derby City 18.
The balance of the game was relatively even with Derby coming very close in the last minute but the loss of prop Andrew Castledine to a sinbin in the 74th minute had taken one of their strongest runners out of the game when needed.
Final score Buxton 22 Derby City 18. Man of the match deservedly given to full back Lewis Thompson for numerous try saving tackles and excellent yardage through the game.