Disappointing draw in league opener
By Tony Hooton
Matlock 7 v 7 Ilkeston
Matlock were in buoyant mood for this opening fixture of the season against a side they had comfortably despatched in both the home and away fixtures the previous year. The home side were without both their Captain Simon Wright and Vice-Captain James Fairclough who had both picked up injuries in pre-season, however the side was still strong enough on paper to the job required.
From the kick off Matlock soon showed their attacking intentions but despite having the lion’s share of both territory and possession their basic skills and ball retention did not match the levels of enthusiasm causing several promising attacks to breakdown and relieving the pressure on the visitors defence. Conor Loughnane, on for the injured Curtis Bolam looked to have scored a certain try but the referee was unsighted and awarded an attacking 5 metre scrum having adjudged the ball as held up over the line. Matlock’s frustration with the lack of control was evident and it wasn’t until the 36th minute that the scoreboard was finally called into use. After a very rare foray into the Matlock 22, Ilkeston turned over the ball and Tom Cruttenden broke blind selling an outrageous dummy before surging up field and drawing the last man and passing to Dan Hooton in close support to race in from halfway. Tom Morton added the extras for a 7-0 lead. Unfortunately in the act of making the break Cruttenden pulled a quad muscle and was forced to retire from the game, Rory Cookman taking his place.
Up to this point in the game Matlock’s defence had been solid but almost immediately following the restart Ilkeston levelled the scores when their resident battering ram Alex Hayes made a strong carry creating an opportunity out wide. The Ilkeston player appeared to have been clearly held up over the line but the referee adjudged that this time the ball had been grounded. The conversion was successful and at half time the scores were level at 7-7.
In the second half Matlock continued to press for the win but on too many occasions a lack of control, wrong choices or poor execution prevented them from getting the win they probably deserved. Both sides came close with penalty shots but no further score was added in a second half in which handling was made difficult by a torrential downpour. Matlock’s frustration at the draw was clear and the day was made worse with three further injuries sustained to key players Curtis Bolam (broken thumb), Chris Atkinson (dislocated shoulder) and Luke Howard (knee). Man of the match was James Harrod.
Next week Matlock travel to Lincoln for what promises to be a tough game for their injury hit squad.
Team: Wright T, Bolam C, Stokes T, Atkinson C, Harrod J, Allen M, Cruttenden T, Emmerson M, Morton T, Young J, Howard L, Morton H, Hooton D, Boyd H, Whittaker G
Bench: Loughnane C, Cookman R, Jackson C