A tough start to the new season, away to Matlock, resulted in a well-deserved 7-7 draw for Ilkeston Elks in the Midlands 2 East (North) division of the National League.
Not only did Elks face difficult opponents, they also had to play through persistent, heavy rain, which came down for most of the game, restricting the level of entertainment.
So they can be well pleased with the massive improvement they showed from two defeats at the hands of Matlock last season, and will be hopeful of building on it in their next fixture, which is at home to Melbourne this Saturday (3 pm).
Matlock began the game much better and spent long periods in the Elks half. But the Ilkeston scrum worked well, with the evergreen Dave Clay leading the way, and as half-time approached, the visitors finally had some decent ball and territory, working their way into the hosts’ 22.
Unfortunately, a loose pass went astray and was knocked on, and from the ensuing scrum, the Matlock number eight picked up the ball and made 40 metres before offloading to the winger, who sprinted through to score. The extras added made it 7-0 after 38 minutes.
The Elks’ response was immediate as, from the kick-off, they forced a knock-on and had an attacking scrum. Jake Lamb made 20 metres, brushing off several tacklers, before he was stopped short of the line. Joel Clay continued the move and fed Tom Pottinger, who crashed over the try line. Harry Walton added the
conversion and it was all-square at the interval.
Elks picked up their game again in the second half and created problems for Matlock with well-positioned kicks from Ben Middleton and Lamb. Matlock struggled to deal with the ball in the rain and the visitors enjoyed much more territory and possession.
Matlock were penalised for not rolling away and Elks had a shot at goal on 50 minutes, but Walton pushed the kick wide in the challenging underfoot conditions.
Despite some terrific midfield charges by Clay and Pottinger, Ilkeston continued to struggle with the wet weather and several line-outs went wrong at key moments. Combined with several knock-ons, the match was mainly fought out between both ten-metre lines.
Matlock upped their game in the final ten minutes, searching for the winning score, and created an excellent driving maul, making more than 20 metres. Elks were penalised for dragging it down and Matlock had a shot to win the game in the 78th minute but, thankfully for the Ilkeston outfit, it went wide.
The rain meant it was never going to be a flowing game, but Elks’ defensive line was strong and the scrum excellent. Despite strong displays by Lamb, Middleton and Pottinger, the man-of-the-match award went to Clay, who carried well and made some good hard yards as well as disrupting many Matlock attacks.