Mettled Melbourne Earn First Victory of Midlands 1 Campaign
MELBOURNE RFC 31 - 12 Sutton Coldfield RFC
Saturday 30 September saw Melbourne host Sutton Coldfield and welcome the former National League club to Cockshut Lane on a damp and dreary afternoon.
As seems to be a consistent theme during these early weeks, Melbourne's squad saw a number of enforced changes with Darryl Banton, Joe Stuart, Will Brooks, Jack Pearce, Dre Forbes recovering from injuries and illness, combined with the unavailability of Mat Smith, Harry Stephenson, Charlie Livesey and James Benstead.
With players such as Al Judge, Jack Fisher and Luke Sheriff still to return to the squad its clear that the club is developing solid and dependable depth with a mix of youthful talent also coming through. Melbourne called upon, and welcomed back, Will Judge, Morris Hall, Gary (Pop) Lakin, Sam Hancock and Ashley Stringer for this fixture.
With conditions set to influence the style of rugby, Melbourne opted to play into the wind from the first whistle, with spells of rain ensuring a greasy and heavy surface was underfoot.
Despite a turnover from receiving the kick-off Melbourne quickly established their dominance with some excellent defensive work eventually forcing a scrum penalty. The resulting scrum was a clear indication of Melbourne's dominance in the set-piece as they drove the bigger pack backwards and over their own ball on a number of occasions, regularly pressuring their possession.
It was from a lineout and the proceeding series of strong carries by Stringer and Stark that saw the ball moved out wide to Tommy Howard for the first score which was converted by Holden after 4 minutes of play (7 - 0) and it was only five minutes later that Melbourne created another opportunity with the ever present Chris Stark hitting a sharp line again to split the Coldfield defence wide open and power to the line for the second try of the game (14 - 0).
Melbourne were firmly in control in the early stages of the game and managed the game pretty well until an unusual loose kick combined with a poor chase allowed Coldfield to switch the play with their rapid fullback scything through Melbourne's defence for Chris Duckworth to touchdown (14 - 7).
Melbourne didn't let the score affect their focus and continued to pressure their rivals. Day, Walker, Judge and Coyne making hard yards on numerous occasions. Melbourne needed to be patient as further scoring opportunities began to build but a couple of rushed decisions prevented Melbourne from amassing further points.
The next opposition score was once again self inflicted by Melbourne who gave away possession unnecessarily and rather cheaply. Credit to Sutton Coldfield who pounced on the opportunity and sought a break away, seeing the visitors gain easy yards wide right. Following a couple of quick phases Tom Burrows touched down for the visitors for an unconverted try (14 -12).
The changes were rang at half time introducing Gary Lakin, Alex Nightingale and James Lockhart.
The immediate impact of the substitutes was felt with Melbourne upping the aggression and clinicalness at the breakdown. Man of the Match Euan Holden managed the game well combined with Oliver Page. Holden soon slotted a penalty from an infringement at the breakdown by the visitors taking the scores to 17 -12, establishing a good lead.
The team's work rate and togetherness shone through in the second half as a superb defensive line pinned Coldfield in their own half for the remainder of the game as the green&gold were happy to allow them possession and pressure them in contact. The forward effort stepped up and an excellent driving maul from a line out outside the visitors 22 saw a third score with the spritely Dan Walker claiming the score from a solid forward effort.
Coldfield struggled to get out of their half and rarely threatened in the second half as Melbourne upped the intensity and pressure. Lockhart was a constant nuisance at the breakdown and Nightingale combined well with a series of telling tackles that drove the ball carriers back towards their own line. Day replaced Coyne midway through the second half and continued his earlier work with solid carrying and tackles.
Melbourne pressed for a fourth try and a bonus point. Opportunities presented but the green&gold had to be patient and composed and they were. It was substitute Gary Lakin who came up trumps with the all important bonus point score following a series of impressive pick and goes by the home side which was again converted well by Holden.
Final Score 31 - 17
MOTM - Euan Holden
Head Coach, Matt Derbyshire said " Its good to get the monkey off the back and finally have a win to show for our efforts thus far. We haven't been far away from it so the boys will gain much confidence from today. We also recognise as a group that further improvements must be made. The squad is extremely competitive and we are proud of the effort and determination the lads are putting in. Today's performance was not a "complete performance" and we have much to work on but we are really pleased with the development and improvement shown."