Fielding 6 changes from last week’s match, Ben Barlow came in at lock and Luke Staton on the flank with Luke Hardern moving to No.8 as Joel Booth nursed a neck injury.
New signing Tom Scragg started on the right wing and Jack Conlon at inside centre with Dean Copperwheat on the left wing.
The opening minute saw the Matlock left wing take a yellow card for a shoulder charge off the ball and he would be the first of 4 yellow cards for late or dangerous tackles
from the Matlock squad, which seemed intent on using such tactics to unsettle the Leek squad in the final quarter.
The opening quarter however was an encounter of good rugby from both sides where the defences were on top and showed why both these sides had played in Midlands 1 last year.
The first real chance came on 26 minutes when a quick Matlock lineout on halfway had the Leek defence outwitted. With a 3 man overlap in the right corner, it looked odds on
Matlock’s backs would score but a superb ankle tap tackle by Dean Copperwheat felled the ball carrier and allowed enough time for the Leek defence to regather and force a knock on.
Leek then took control as a couple of penalties allowed them to get into the Matlock 22. Stopped at the Matlock line on 32 minutes after a catch and drive, the resultant scrum saw
Gary McDermott create a maul and the Leek forwards drove over with Phil Tomczak crashing through for the deserved try. McDermott converted and Leek lead 0-7 on 34 minutes.
As the first half entered added time McDermott added 3 points from a penalty as Matlock slowed the ball in the ruck. 0-10.
Then with 7 minutes of added time played, he had another penalty chance after Matlock was caught offside. The attempt struck the post and although Adam Smith retained
possession, Leek was eventually penalised and Matlock cleared to end the half at 0-10.
The 2nd half opened with Leek asleep. Fielding the kick off, Matlock’s forwards retained the ball in the loose and the backs moved the ball up the left channel before the
forwards took over again. Quick ball right, poor Leek tackling and space on the right had the right wing scoring in the corner.
The conversion missed but Matlock had halved Leek’s lead to 5-10 and maybe the momentum was changing.
It didn’t, as Leek forced a lineout on 45 minutes deep in the Matlock 22. A great maul had Phil Tomczak over the line again but he couldn’t ground the ball and the chance was lost.
On 56 minutes McDermott did increase the lead to 5-13 as Matlock was caught offside at the ruck but from the kick off Leek didn’t retain the ball and the alert Matlock fly half
scored a try running around tacklers from another poor defensive effort. His conversion had the game poised at 12-13 as the game entered the final quarter.
On 62 minutes Lee Williams charged down an attempted clearance kick and the Leek forwards pressed in the Matlock 22. A yellow card was shown for a dangerous tackle off the ball
in the movement and from the resulting lineout, another great maul had skipped Bobby Cheadle crashing over for Leek’s 2nd try.
McDermott’s conversion just missed. 12-18.
On 66 minutes, McDermott was clearing his lines when another yellow was given for the cynical late challenge on the fly half. The animated Matlock coach again encroached on the field
to discuss with the referee but was seemingly waived off in the direction of the clubhouse.
McDermott got to his feet after treatment but his clearance kick didn’t find touch and a great kick from the Matlock 10 had Kini Bulliviani conceding a 5 metre lineout.
The catch and drive to the line and then pick up and drive to score a try was a cruel blow for Leek after the previous incident.
The conversion just failed but at 17-18, it was still finely balanced with 10 minutes to go.
On 74 minutes, the 4th yellow was shown after McDermott again was on the receiving end of a dangerous shoulder charge as he turned over the ball in midfield.
Some confusion ensued about whether the infringing player had already been yellowed but the referee was guided by the
Matlock coach who had made his way back to the technical area.
3 minutes later and McDermott, recovered, slotted a penalty as Leek looked to clinch the match after an offside in the Matlock 22. 17-21
As the game made its way into overtime, Leek was penalised for handling on the floor and a kick for the 5 metre lineout had Leek just preventing a score. The resulting scrum was stopped at the Leek
line but the referee gave an offside against the Leek back row and the alert Matlock scrum half was allowed to take the penalty almost from the try line.
His pass to the left wing saw him squeeze in at the corner for the decisive score. The conversion missed but it didn’t matter as the home side sneaked a 22-21 win.
An extremely disappointing end to what had started out as a great game of rugby but Leek can only blame themselves for not taking advantage of the home side’s lack of discipline
and they must regather now for the away league game at Camp Hill this week. KO 3pm.
There were positive performances from all of the new players this season. Ben Barlow, Dean Copperwheat and Tom Scragg all saw plenty of the ball and it was good to see the scrum and lineout working so well.
Author John McDermott