After a two-week enforced break, Rasen were the slower side to blow away the cobwebs, but when they did, they played some good controlled rugby and could have pulled a win out of the bag.
Accuracy let them down at critical moments and they couldn’t finish off their attacks, but after a shaky start there were plenty of positives to take into Saturday’s game, at home to a resurgent Newark (ko 2.15pm).
Despite the downpours, Matlock’s ground wasn’t the quagmire expected, but it was heavy as both sides slogged it out in a largely forward-orientated encounter.
Playing down the slope Rasen kicked off long, and the ball appeared to have been touched down in goal, but the referee ruled it had gone dead and Matlock opted to scrum back at the centre.
This was the perfect start for the hosts whose game is built around its renowned forward power.
From the scrum, number eight Simon Wright drove play upfield for Matlock to go through the phases and earn a penalty.
But the swirling wind proved tricky and James Fairclough’s attempted touch find ballooned over the dead ball line to give Rasen some respite.
This was short-lived as Matlock were soon back on the attack, using their forwards as a battering ram until centre Daniel Hooton’s superb line cut open the Red and Green defence.
With one defender to beat he made the simple pass for winger Mark Thornley to dash over the whitewash after only four minutes. Fairclough added the conversion.
Matlock began to win the territorial battle with their direct style, and although Rasen’s defence held firm, they found it hard to escape their own half.
They didn’t help themselves with a series of unforced errors which put paid to several promising attacks.
From one such attack, Matlock turned over Rasen’s possession and broke out of their own half.
Fly-half Alex Powell’s clever running fixed the visitors’ defence before expertly delaying his pass to put centre Ben Neville away on the wing to dive over for a second try after 27 minutes.
Rasen were down, but definitely not out as they worked their way deep into Matlock territory once more and earned a penalty, but Connor Janney’s effort was wide of the mark.
With the half drawing to a close, flanker George Grant gathered a relieving Matlock kick and charged upfield deep into home territory.
The Rasen forwards were in close support and continued to drive on before flanker Jake Pryer pirouetted out of two tackles to edge closer to the line.
More good work from the forwards inched them nearer before the irrepressible Pryer was finally driven over to open the Red and Green account on the stroke of half-time.
Starting the second half 12–5 down, Rasen were still firmly in the game, but within two minutes of the restart Fairclough punished an indiscretion with a well-struck penalty to edge Matlock 15-5 ahead.
The second half turned into a question of what might have been as the visitors dominated long periods of the half with some quality rugby from both forwards and backs.
But their execution was found wanting at critical moments.
As the game wore on Matlock were visibly tiring, and Rasen’s superior fitness gave them hope of engineering more chances, but the Red and Greens just couldn’t find the cutting edge to finish their opportunities and the hosts clung on.
Rasen stayed fourth, but slipped eight points behind the top three with six games to go.