Derby began their third season in The Midland Premier league with a tough away trip to Nuneaton. In both previous visits to Liberty Way, Derby had been beaten, after building up a healthy lead.
A lovely sunny day saw Derby give a debut to second row Sam Harrington, while Jeremiah Oldfield came off the bench for his first start. It was also good to see Lewis Hancock returning to the squad after a long spell out through injury.
Derby kicked off and were soon pushing Nuneaton back. A George Castledine penalty opened the scoring after 8 minutes.
4 minutes later, Louis Hicks was forced off with injury and Charlie Barker came on.
As Nuneaton attacked, looking to get back in the game, Ollie Saffell intercepted, but was hauled down 10 metres short of the line, after a good run.
After 22 minutes, Derby increased their lead. Josh Pearson stole the ball, but was held up over the line. From the resulting scrum, Derby sucked in the Nuneaton defence and when the ball was spread wide, Ollie Saffell cut back inside to touch down.
Nuneaton hit back with a penalty try for a high tackle, which saw McGrath Van Wyk sent to the sin bin.
A Luke Willmott break led to Derby’s second try, after 30 minutes. As the Nuneaton defence were scrambling back, Derby kept possession and swung the ball wide to Ben Marlow, who beat the last man to score.
This left Derby 13 – 7 ahead, but Nuneaton took the lead with a converted try, with the last play of the half, after Derby had declined the opportunity to kick the ball out of play.
An even game was turned on its head in the first 11 minutes of the second half. In this time, Nuneaton ran in 3 tries and converted twice to lead 33 – 13.
Ben Marlow cut the deficit on 56 minutes, with his 2nd try of the day.
Derby were getting back in the game and Luke Willmott almost scored, but just put a foot in touch before grounding the ball.
12 minutes were left when Nuneaton lost a player to the sin bin, for conceding a penalty 5 metres from his own line. Luke Willmott tapped the penalty and slipped the ball to Sam Harrington who marked his debut by crashing over. George Castledine added the conversion. This gave Derby a point for scoring 4 tries.
Derby had an opportunity to narrow the gap, but declined a kickable penalty, before Nuneaton sealed the game with a penalty of their own and then a converted try at the death.
A disappointing start for Derby, with missed tackles and poor kicks costing dearly.
Sandbach open the season at Haslams next Saturday !
Come on Derby !
Match Report by Richard Bambra