Promotion secured as Luton beat Matlock in play-off thriller
Luton came out on top of their play-off against Midlands Two East (North) runners-up Matlock 35-22 at Newlands Road on Saturday to gain promotion.
Ben Murphy, Jake Hobbs, Jordan Davies and Ryan Staff scored Luton’s tries while Rik Hobbs converted three penalties in the game that could have gone either way.
Matlock started on the front foot from the get-go, and after a number of phases deep in the Luton half, their winger off-loaded to the centre, leaving him one-on-one with Davies, the latter slipped and the visiting player went on to touch down.
The conversion was added to make it 7-0 within the first five minutes.
However, the lead didn’t last long as Luton swiftly pulled level.
Hobbs kicked a penalty deep into touch, as the lineout resulted in a maul.
The home side’s pack used their strength to push it over the line before Murphy fell on the ball to score, Rik Hobbs converted brilliantly from beyond the 22.
Luton extended their advantage shortly after, as with the home side looked to be pinned inside in their own half, Aidan Kenny made a break and found centre Jake Hobbs.
He kicked over the full back’s head and beat the winger in a race for the ball to score.
His brother Rik did business with his boot, again from a similar position, to make it 14-7.
Rik Hobbs then extended the home side’s lead by a further three points as he slotted home a penalty from around 40 metres, giving them a 10 point cushion.
Matlock tried to break down the home side’s defensive line, but they proved too strong and the visitors had to settle for a penalty, making it 17-10 at the break.
The Derbyshire side came out attacking again at the beginning of the second half and got the breakthrough straight away.
Their full back exploited a gap in the Luton defence finding himself two-on-one with his winger and David Hamm.
He opted for the pass out to the man on the flank to put the ball down for the visitors second try of the match.
The conversion curled away from his target and struck the far post leaving Luton with a two point lead.
At the other end, it was the home side attacking and after 12 phases of play, all inside Matlock’s 22, captain Staff picked the ball out of the ruck inches from the whitewash and forced himself over to make it 22-15.
However, Matlock fought back once more in this entertaining end-to-end affair.
Play started with a scrum 10 metres inside their own half, but some good rugby saw them progress up the field quickly and ended with the number eight crashing over the line.
The visitors scrum-half converted the straightforward kick to draw the game level at 22-22.
Determined not to put all their hard work throughout the season to waste though, Luton came on strongly for the final period of the game.
Hobbs made it 28-22 as he converted two out of three very similar kicks within a short period of time.
The match was still finely poised as full time approached, but then Matlock’s number eight failed in his attempts to catch a box kick from Dave Evans.
Hamm collected the loose ball and off-loaded it inside to full back Davies who raced to the line sealing promotion for the Bedfordshire side as Hobbs added the simple conversion to make the final score 35-22.