Ilkeston were unable to capitalise on a half-time lead as county rivals Matlock ultimately left the Stute with a 30-29 victory on Saturday.
Despite the respective league positions the visitors arrived full of confidence after an impressive string of victories, and always being tough opposition this was unlikely to be an easy ride for the hosts.
And it didn’t take long for Matlock to take the lead, as their speedy winger Packard gathered the loose ball inside his own 22 and raced the length of the pitch to score a converted opener.
The hosts slowly settled into the game and put Matlock under sustained pressure which eventually led to a line out deep in Matlock territory, and safe hands allowed Jono Falls to force his way over in the corner. A superb touchline conversion by Joel Haigh levelled the scores at 7-7 on 25 minutes.
Matlock were struggling to get out of their own half and just before half-time the Elks conjured a second score which was almost a carbon copy of the first as Falls again crossed in the corner, though this time it was unconverted. Half-time, 12-7.
The first-half pattern continued in the second and Ilkeston were camped in the Mattock half, extending their lead when Dan Taylor pounced on a loose ball to waltz through the Matlock defence and touch down, Haigh duly converting.
Almost from the re-start Matlock won the ball at the breakdown and fed Packard who again showed a devastating turn of pace to put the home side firmly on the back foot, the ball eventually reaching James Cooper who scored under the posts.
Within minutes the previous errors were compounded as some fairly innocuous play by both sides ended with the visitors scoring a further try through Robinson to make it 19-19.
After the sides exchanged penalties to take the score to 22 – 22, Matlock put Ilkeston under pressure and desperate defence and a resulting infringement yielded Matlock an easy three point opportunity which they accepted.
Worse still was the yellow card for Ayres that reduced the Elks to ten men for what turned out to be for the rest of the match.
Within minutes Matlock, now with their tails up, extended their lead as a line-out was lost by Ilkeston and the visitors moved the ball wide Powell scored.
There was still time for Dan Taylor to cross again and Haigh to convert, but the Elks were agonisingly just a point short and had been punished for their defensive frailties. The result also saw Ilkeston drop to third in the table.