In gale force conditions, a strong Derby selection faced a resurgent and much improved Syston side determined to escape the relegation zone. However, the game was marred by a serious ankle injury to Luke Willmott which necessitated him being taken to hospital by ambulance. Everyone wishes him a speedy recovery. His contribution will be sorely missed.
As an overall observation, it seemed that Derby’s backs lined up too shallow in the first half, thus allowing Syston’s fast centres to put them under pressure forcing some wrong options.
Once again Derby faced a team with direct running ball carriers with quick back up support. Though George Castledine and Jack Dawson did manage to break through a few times, I was reminded of the lack of ball given to Ben Marlow, a reflection on the season perhaps. In general the usual team cohesion had gone with players looking for someone to take the initiative.
Seven minutes in, Gabriel Kajdy showed his NFL experience in diving over the top of a ruck to score a dramatic touchdown try converted by George Castledine. Eight minutes later, left winger, Reid, replied by finishing a good move to score an unconverted try in the corner. Syston pushing Derby back in the scrum on their own ball was an ominous sign of things to come. From a 5-metre scrum, centre, Smith, cut through at speed on an angled run to score for Harries to convert. He and Castledine kicked penalties to leave the interval score at Derby 10 Syston 15.
From the restart, George Castledine made a great break and sent Ben Marlow over for a try, converted by Castledine to give Derby a slender lead of two points. Derby pressed hard but were frustrated by Syston’s outstanding No8, Harrison. Sam Tebbs replaced Charlie Barker but two consecutive penalties by Derby ended with scrum half, Cavnor, squeezing over from a 5-metre ruck to regain the lead for Syston. It was then that Luke Willmott made a thirty metre break before suffering his tragic injury and was replaced by Charlie Barker. Having yet again conceded penalties Derby were demoralised by a Syston driving maul backwards thirty metres before prop, Jones, finished with a try. Derby tried hard to get a losing bonus point. Their best effort was a fifty metre break by Callum Slater but with no close support, he was stopped short of the line.
It is clear that the ability and fitness standards required at this level have increased but though the remainder of the season looks challenging, Derby players can show determination and team spirit to pull off a surprise or two. Come on Derby!
Match Report by Gerry Sherry