VPs treated to great game of rugby
By Tony Hooton
Matlock 48 v 12 Ilkeston
Matlock welcomed Ilkeston’s players and supporters to a gloriously sunny Cromford Meadows. Matlock needed a bonus point win to keep their promotion challenge on track, whereas Ilkeston were looking to avenge a heavy defeat at home in the opening league fixture back in September. The game was preceded by the second VP lunch of the season so the home side were assured of a large partisan crowd. The match day squad saw the return of both James Fairclough and Dan Hooton to the three quarter line and with Captain Simon Wright ruled out with an ankle injury, Tom Cruttenden moved to No8 with Charlie Jackson and Rory Cookman on the flanks. Mike Emmerson started with James Harrod in the 2nd row. Ben Neville was cajoled to dig out his boots and join Chris Atkinson and Conor Loughnane on the bench. Alex Powell led the side out on his 250th appearance with Tom Wright and Mike Allen also recording 100 and 50 games respectively.
The game kicked off and Matlock were immediately in an attacking position with a line out on the Ilkeston 22. Matlock knocked on in the line and from the resulting scrum Ilkeston’s fly-half knocked on and Charlie Jackson pounced on the loose ball. Morton passed to Tom Cruttenden on the charge to burst through a couple of attempted tackles to race away and touch down for the opening score. The conversion attempt was wide of the uprights 5-0. From the restart Matlock knocked on giving Ilkeston an attacking scrum. After a patient attack they created a good scoring opportunity which was thwarted by a superbly timed smother tackle by Alex Powell creating turnover ball allowing Matlock to relieve the pressure. 3 minutes later Matlock were on the scoreboard again. Ilkeston were penalised for holding on in the tackle and Tom Morton nudged the ball towards the Ilkeston 22. At the lineout Tom Cruttenden peeled round the back of the line and again burst passed several would be tacklers to crash over the line. Morton added the extras from out wide 12-0. From the restart Matlock knocked on again giving Ilkeston an attacking platform in the hosts 22. They shipped the ball across the line but a strong hit in the middle by Dan Hooton forced a knock on. Matlock pounced on the loose ball and passed to James Fairclough who made a fine break before finding Mike Allen in close support who raced from half way to touch down under the posts. Morton added the extras 19-0 with only 16 minutes played. A shell shocked Ilkeston looked to regroup again but the hosts were in no mood to ease up. On 22 minutes Matlock scored the bonus point try. On the half way line Morton picked up from a ruck and spotting space kicked open to the far wing. The ball looked likely to run into touch but as the Ilkeston fullback assumed the ball was going out, Luke Howard didn’t give up the chase and was justly rewarded when the ball sat up kindly for him to gather it without breaking stride and then race away to score in the corner. The conversion attempt was wide 24-0. Ilkeston regrouped yet again and were aided by an unnecessary Matlock transgression to gain an attacking lineout in the Matlock 22. Matlock repelled the first attack off the line out but Ilkeston took advantage of a doglegged defence to cut threw for a score under the posts. A successful conversion took the score to 24-7. Matlock were annoyed by the defensive lapse and the response was instant and emphatic. From a scrum on the Ilkeston 10 metre line Cruttenden picked up and raced away from the scrum feeding Mike Allen who made a strong carry up the touch line before being stopped close to the line. Tom Morton picked up from the base of the ruck and darted over for a try. Whilst the Ilkeston players were being admonished behind their own line, Morton’s conversion attempt was wide of the uprights, 29-7. Two minutes later Matlock were defending an Ilkeston attack when a big hit by Alex Powell resulted in the Ilkeston player’s legs going above the horizontal and the player landing a little awkwardly. Although the awkward landing was more due to the momentum of the tackler than any intended malice, the referee had no choice but to show him a red card as required by the letter of the law. So 30 minutes gone Matlock found themselves down to 14 men. From the resulting penalty Ilkeston kicked to the corner and looking for a second score. Matlock repelled the line out drive and Ilkeston went through the phases to create and overlap and almost certain scoring opportunity for the Ilkeston 7 as he raced towards the corner only to be held up and stripped on the line by Dan Hooton with a superb last ditch smother tackle. More resolute defence saw Matlock again make a good exit and the fourteen men delivered another blow to the visitor’s hopes of any resurgence when the ball was shipped quickly to Hooton who drew two men before sending Mike Allen over in the corner for his second try. Tom Morton converted brilliantly from out wide, 36-7. As the half came to a close Ilkeston looked to make use of the extra man with a deft chip though to the corner where both players dived to touch down the ball. The referee could see no clear grounding and awarded a 22 drop out before blowing for half time.
HT score 36-7
Matlock made changes at half time with Chris Atkinson, Conor Loughnane and Ben Neville replacing Charlie Jackson, Rory Cookman and Mike Allen. Matlock’s efforts were soon further hampered when on 43 minutes Tom Cruttenden picked up a yellow card for a high tackle reducing the side to thirteen men. In the interests of player safety it was decided not to move the injured player so the game had to move pitches. After a ten minute delay the game restarted with an Ilkeston penalty on the Matlock 22 with the home side’s thirteen men working very hard in defence. After 3 minutes of intense pressure Matlock conceded a second converted try after the defence became too stretched. The conversion was wide 36-12. Matlock were not prepared to lock down the game and continued to run the ball at the Ilkeston defence at every opportunity and despite being two men down they made they made their way back up field for Chris Atkinson to eventually break through for a try from close range. Tom Morton added the extras 43-12. Shortly after Matlock’s numbers were back up to fourteen with Tom Cruttenden returning to the fray. For a long period the game then became very open and was a great advert for the game with both sides trying to run the ball at every opportunity in an effort to break down each other’s defences. For the home side Luke Howard, Ben Neville and Mike Allen all put in several strong carries on the counter attack. Matlock used their remaining exchanges carefully in an effort to get some fresher legs on the pitch. As the game was drawing to a close both sides were tiring from the efforts expended and began to try and kick long to gain attacking position. Ilkeston kicked long to the Matlock 22 where the ball was gathered by Harry Boyd who looked up and seeing the tired chasers approaching he side stepped the first defender then set off on a superb arcing run which saw him side step and weave his way up the opposite touch line and step out of the last defenders clutches to race over and touch down in the corner for a truly sublime individual try. Matlock then saw out the last three minutes to record a very hard earned and rewarding victory, 48-12.
This was a really fine gutsy performance by the whole squad who to a man worked extremely hard for each other throughout the 80 minutes entertaining the large crowd. It is impossible to pick one man of the match out of such a strong all round squad performance.
As the game finished the paramedics arrived and the injured Ilkeston player was thankfully given the all clear.
Matlock now have to play their last league fixture against Ashbourne next Saturday at Cromford Meadows kick off 3.00pm. A bonus point win will secure a promotion play off away at Luton currently scheduled for the 5th May.
Team: Wright T, Bolam C, Stokes T, Harrod J, Emmerson M, Cookman R, Jackson C, Cruttenden T, Morton T, Fairclough J, Howard L, Hooton D, Boyd H, Allen M, Powell A
Bench: Loughnane C, Atkinson C, Neville B