Derby started the New Year, with a tough fixture against league leaders Scunthorpe. Josh Tizard led Derby out, in honour of his 100th appearance for the side. George Castledine returned to the starting XV, along with Luke Willmott, Simon Moon, Charlie Barker, Callum Jones and Callum Slater. Archie Jones made his first appearance of the season from the bench.
Derby kicked off on a cold, dry day, but it was Scunthorpe who were first into their stride. Their attack was stopped illegally and the resulting penalty kicked to give them a 3 point lead.
Derby lost Luke Willmott to the sin bin after 20 minutes, and Scunthorpe took advantage by kicking another penalty to double their lead.
Derby hit back, while still down to 14 men, when McGrath Van Wyk kicked a penalty to half the deficit.
Scunthorpe continued to press, and had their reward 5 minutes before the break, with a converted try.
Half time saw Scunthorpe deservedly ahead, 13 – 3. Derby had defended superbly, but would need to create some chances of their own if they were to get anything out of the game.
The second half started with a yellow card for the Scunthorpe fly half, but Derby were unable to make the 1 man advantage count.
After 56 minutes, Derby lost their second player of the day to the sin bin, when Ben Marlow was dispatched. Unlike Derby, Scunthorpe took advantage, scoring from a line out. The conversion put them 17 points clear.
Derby hit back, with a spell of sustained pressure. A scrum was won and Luke Willmott picked up and drove forward. The ball was sent down the line and the space that had been created allowed replacement Luke Frixou to touch down.
With time running down, Derby were pressing again and the forwards drove over the Scunthorpe try line, with Sam Harrington touching down for his 8th try of the season. McGrath Van Wyk then kicked a superb touchline conversion, narrowing the gap to 5 points.
Scunthorpe kicked off, with Derby in sight of a bonus point and some spectators dreaming of an unlikely win !
Rugby can be a cruel game however. Derby conceded a penalty. Scunthorpe kicked it. The referee blew the final whistle and Derby finished empty handed.
Derby could not be faulted for effort or commitment and put in a superb defensive performance, which almost led to gaining a point.
5 points is all that separate Derby from a relegation spot, but if Derby can play like this against the teams around them, they are more than capable of reaching safety.
Come on Derby !
Match Report by Richard Bambra
Photographs of the Derby v Scunthorpe game can be viewed on the e4creative photography website at www.e4creative-photography.co.uk/galleries/gallery/05012019-derby-1st-xv-v-scunthorpe-1st-xv