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Kesteven Under-14s defeat Matlock to become NLD Cup champions

Having beaten last year’s winners Stamford, runners-up Newark and in-form Lincoln en route to the final, Kesteven Under-14s faced Matlock in the season finale NLD Cup Final at Derby Rugby Club on their stunning £1m AG pitch – a new experience for the boys.

Matlock had impressive results in the competition against Ilkeston (12-12, then 50-0), Chesterfield (31-29) and Scunthorpe (26-24) to reach the final.

However, Ks were on an unbeaten run of nine games, dating back to January, and were determined to put last season’s semi-final defeat behind them.

Kesteven Under-14s.
Kesteven Under-14s.

Matlock kicked off and enjoyed much of the possession in the first five minutes as the sides sussed one another out. Ks’ defence remained strong and resolute despite Matlock’s possession and territorial position. Some nervy passing thwarted a couple of Ks attempts to get up the field but they cleared their lines after being awarded a penalty and began to settle into the game.

Ks then turned over the ball in midfield and passed itball down the line to winger Rhys, around the halfway line, who set off around the defence to score the opening try of the final. Sadly, he injured his shoulder in the scoring of the try and had to be substituted – a short but vital contribution to the match. Wyatt slotted the conversion and Ks led 7-0.

From the restart, Ks safely caught the ball and set up a couple of phases before Callum picked and went, moving Ks just outside the Matlock 22 to set up another attacking position. Ks spun the ball through the hands of the backs, looking to exploit an overlap, only for a deliberate knock-on to scupper the chance.

From the penalty, Ks ran a couple of phases deep into the Matlock 22 only to lose the ball forward, which Matlock kicked clear back to the halfway line. It was only a momentary relief; Dylan (on for Rhys) gathered the ball and fed an under-pressure Josh G, who slipped the ball to Max on the right wing. Off he went, stepping and snapping the ankles of two Matlock defenders to score Ks’ second try of the final, 12-0.

Matlock tried to probe the Ks defence but good line speed and strong tackling forced them back, ending with a turnover for Ks before Will H’s strong run was brought to a halt by the referee for a high tackle, and Wyatt kicked deep into the 22.

Ks’ coaches and parents knew what was coming next – a big banana! And it was beautifully executed, rhino Joe running the dummy line and Thom B offloading to Will H to power over for Ks third try and 17-0.

Ks had their tails up now and were playing with confidence. Thom B caught the restart for Ks and beat a couple of men before presenting quick ball, thanks to his fellow forwards. Alfred spun the ball to Mason to Oscar who drew the defence before passing to Dylan to run in from inside his own half and touch down under the posts for Ks’ fourth try and an easy conversion for Wyatt, 24-0.

Ks were now in total control of the game and Matlock looked understandably shellshocked.

Ks brought on their remaining subs for the second half and picked up where they had left off, putting pressure on the catcher and pinning Matlock inside their 22. The forwards were putting immense pressure on the Matlock scrum. Their clearance kick was gathered by Josh G who pierced the defence in trademark style before a Joe D pick and go was scragged into touch.

Ks put great pressure on the Matlock back line, causing errant passes and another clearance kick. But Matlock were still stuck deep in their own half. Despite a great tackle from Oscar, Matlock offloaded and almost broke clear, but for an ankle tap tackle from Joel. Mason was in there to quickly turnover the ball, skipping past a couple of tackles before offloading to Wyatt, who, with lightening speed, offloaded to Ollie M, who managed to power over the line with a defender hanging off him; 29-0 with Wyatt’s kick slipping narrowly past the post.

The restart was beautifully taken by Thom B who offloaded to a rampaging Oscar, who drove Ks all the way back into the Matlock 22 before a clearance kick to the 10-metre line. The game ebbed and flowed for a couple of minutes before Ks conceded a penalty which Matlock gratefully kicked for a rare visit into Ks half.

A rolling maul was followed by a pick and go, and Ks were penalised again 10 metres out. Ks thwarted this attack and Dan came away with the ball, only for the referee to call another penalty which Matlock would power over for their opening try of the final, 29-5.

From a Ks scrum, a backs move did not quite work out, but Ks retained possession and drives from Thom B, Henry and Oscar were all repelled before Dan picked up a loose ball on the 10-metre line and set his sights on the line, touching down under the posts for 34-5.

From the restart, Will H drove the ball back into the Matlock half before being tackled. The teams traded kicks and territory before Ks won a line-out on halfway, running a couple of phases before conceding possession from a knock-on.

Matlock passed the ball down the line from the scrum, but fast Ks line speed interrupted their flow before Oscar popped up to seize the ball and dart over the line from just outside the 22, scoring under the posts for another easy conversion for Wyatt, 41-5.

From the restart, Dan took the ball and powered forward, offloading to Will M who marauded into the Matlock half, releasing quick ball for the backs who could not capitalise this time. From the resulting Matlock scrum, Alfred sacked the scrum half before he could get the ball away, but Ks were over-eager to recover the ball and conceded a penalty, enabling Matlock to return to the Ks half for another infrequent visit.

But this time Ks held strong, stopping Matlock’s number eight, their main attacking threat, with strong, determined and defiant tackling before benefiting from a knock-on and clearing their lines ahead of the referee’s final whistle, sparking scenes of jubilation for Ks – the NLD Cup winners.

Man of the match was Thom B for a great captain’s performance.

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