Matlock left it late for the second week running but once again ran out victors, this time 28-26 at Notts Casuals on Saturday.
The early exchanges highlighted a lack of energy about Matlock’s game and with only 12 minutes gone Casuals had taken advantage of the visitor’s apparent apathy in defence to build a 10-0 lead courtesy of a converted try and penalty for a dubious high tackle.
Matlock began to play with more purpose and pace and reduced the arrears when a line-out catch was clean and the Matlock pack drove back their heavier counterparts like a steam train for Jack Wagg to touch down for the try. The conversion attempt fell short.
The resurgence was short-lived as on 23 minutes Casuals converted a penalty to lead 13-5, Ben Neville having been yellow-carded after being trapped on the wrong side of the ruck.
Only minutes later Matlock went further behind. A ruck on the Matlock 22 saw Casuals move the ball quickly through hands before their centre attempted a chip through but the ball rebounded off a Matlock defender then back off the Casuals player allowing them to retain possession. The ball was quickly recycled to the blind side where they had the overlap for the winger to score. The conversion from out wide was successful and a shell-shocked Matlock found themselves 20-5 down with luck now also seeming to have deserted them.
Two Whittaker penalties reduced the half-time deficit to 20-11, but another yellow card for Neville had meant Matlock would play the remainder of the game with 14 men.
The opening minutes of the second-half saw Casuals increase the lead to 23-11 with a penalty, but Matlock stuck manfully to the task and eventually there was a noticeable change as the urgency of the situation, plus some changes in personnel, brought about possibly the best 20 minutes rugby of their season so far.
On 63 minutes, and after Casuals had collapsed two scrums, Matlock continued to batter a brave defence and eventually Luke Crofts forced his way over for an unconverted try to make it 23-16.
Two minutes later Casuals increased their lead to 26-16 through another penalty but a stretched and tiring home side picked up a yellow card as they attempted to slow down Matlock’s quicker ball.
Matlock scored again when Dave Hartley’s fine delayed pass put Crofts in to score, Whittaker adding the extras with ten minutes left.
Now it was all Matlock and Casuals were fighting hard to hang on, picking a second yellow card in their efforts to do so.
With four minutes to go, Matlock won the game as from a ruck, they broke blind with Hartley passing to Nick Coombes who used his power and pace to carry some 30 yards leaving four would be defenders in his wake and despite being finally stopped just short of the line managed to offload to Simon Wright in support to crash over for a try.
The conversion attempt was wide but Matlock now led 26-28, a lead they held on to despite late pressure to take the victory.