Melbourne find their Might & Fight
Superb Melbourne Earn Vital 5 Points
Despite plunging temperatures and light snow, Melbourne had managed their pitch usage well over previous weeks, allowing the home fixture to be played under harsh conditions as the green and gold welcomed Hereford to Cockshut Lane.
It was a bitterly cold, overcast Saturday afternoon and following a weeks rest Melbourne were in good spirits. With nineteen of the first team squad absent through injury in recent weeks it was welcoming news that the green&gold could call upon Jack Fisher, James Benstead, Ashley Stringer and Alec Judge to return to the squad.
The exchange referee controlled the game well and let both squads know of his intentions and interpretations before kick-off.
Melbourne started brightly and immediately put Hereford under pressure with the playmaking axis of Page, Fisher and Holden running the show from early doors. It was pleasing to see a fine balance of good decision making and sensible play - looking to move the ball into the right areas of the pitch at the right time.
On three minutes prop forward Mark Coyne powered over the visitors line following some excellent link play between the forwards and backs. Melbourne continued to have the upper hand in the open field and lineout but Hereford edged the early exchanges in the scrum.
Discipline was going to be key and the early indicators (too many penalties conceded) should of been a warning for the home side as they gave easy field position on a too regular basis to the visitors. In open play Melbourne looked comfortable with the ball in hand and built pressure. Twenty minutes later a second converted score was executed well, once again through the excellent work of prop forward Coyne, as Melbourne took a 14 - 0 lead.
Melbourne were firmly in control at this stage of the game but a series of quick offences saw two yellow cards issued both to Coyne and Percival, reducing the home side to 13 with around 10 minutes of the half remaining. Hereford used their set piece from the resulting penalties to score two quick tries to bring the scoreline to 14 - 14. Having been in control up to this point it was harsh reality that indiscipline costs you points. Despite the scoreline being drawn Melbourne continued to fight and rally whilst depleted of two players for the final minutes of the first half and beginning of the second.
This was epitomised in the 44th minute when Melbourne strung a series of 19 phases together culminating in a wide ball being delivered to James Benstead on the right wing for a superb score, with the conversion narrowly missed 19 -14.
Shortly after this prolonged and dogged attack a line-out in the home sides half saw Hereford form a rolling maul and with the green&gold having been penalised for collapsing their was a nervous edge to the defence allowing the visitors easy yardage and a third score. 19 -21.
In previous weeks Melbourne had faced some hard times and heavy scorelines but we knew that if we learnt lessons from defeat and kept heart that it would benefit us long term and this was one week where it showed.
Melbourne were always in control of the game, they had rectified there discipline and they began to rally. The irrepressible Jack Percival, who must have given some of the Hereford players nightmares following his powerful carrying and even more destructive tackling, firmly looked to make his mark on the game which he did in the 55th minute when Melbourne attacked quickly through their backline to take the ball into the heart of the visitors 22. Following a series of successful phases the ball was moved across to Percival who held and ran a strong line to dive over the line. Holden converted 26 - 19
The game was soon wrapped up as Melbourne's fitness told and the green&gold began to attack the holes and space that opened up ahead of them. There fifth try fell deservedly to Jack Fisher who had already had a couple of close attempts. Attacking the defensive line with incisive footwork and spin Fisher drove over the line to conclude the games scoring and ensure that Hereford were closed out.
The game had shown intelligence and adaptability in Melbourne's play, not forcing unnecessary attacks or rushing the tackle. The play making axis worked well and in unity with one another and this, combined with the high work-rate of the likes of Sam Hancock and Joe Stuart, ensured that Hereford were always under pressure. Melbourne forwards put in a big shift including the impact from the bench with Stephenson, Lakin and Lawson all making valuable contributions.
MOTM was Jack Percival but this could have been awarded to a number of contenders as the greens&gold showed plenty of heart and fight.
Head Coach, Matt Derbyshire concluded the game saying "...the players showed composure and belief today. We have had some hard lessons to learn recently but they have done just that. The most pleasing aspect was the unity and execution shown in their play. The boys never doubted that the result would come and they fought tooth and nail for the victory today. The group is developing both in their skill sets but more importantly in leadership and confidence with the likes of young players such as Stephenson, Cooke-Rogers, Benstead and Percival all taking on more and everyone rallying around. Im really pleased and proud for/of the guys as they deserve results like this for all they put in on and off the field."