Melton Dig Deep To Win Back To Back Championships, With A Close Win Over Vipers
The scene was set for a close contest and so it proved with both sides attacking from the outset...
Vipers 10 Melton 12
The victory last week turned out to be quite costly for Melton as several players were injured and consequently unavailable for the visit to play the penultimate fixture of the league season. They also knew that a single point would secure the league title and promotion.
Vipers have had a tricky season with notable victories at home and had pushed both Lutterworth and Market Harborough very close but their away form had cost them valuable points and they badly needed a home win to secure their place in the league.
The scene was set for a close contest and so it proved with both sides attacking from the outset. Both teams defences were hard pressed to stifle the intensity of the attacks as the game swung from end to end. Melton had the first opportunity to open the scoring when Vipers were penalised at a ruck but Harvey Green's well struck penalty fell just short.
Vipers lively set of forwards took the game by the scruff of the neck and their back row in particular were a real threat all afternoon. Only some sound tackling from Sam Dennison and Leon Gormley kept the defensive line intact but Vipers finally capitalised when a penalty was converted to open the scoring. Disaster followed shortly after when Dan Wakefield was singled out as being at fault for foul play in the line out. The referee had chosen the wrong man as it turned out but nevertheless Melton had to defend with fourteen men for ten minutes.
Vipers took full advantage of the extra man when a quickly taken tap penalty caught Melton napping and the speedy scrum half was through a gap to score with the conversion giving the home side a ten point lead. It is rare this season that Melton have been in this position and it is credit to them that they came back into the game with real character (talking of characters how they have missed the fun that Crazy Crossie brings to the game).
Vipers were forced to defend as Melton tried everything to find a way back into contention. Good set piece play, most notably from the rugged front row of Dave Osborne, Marcus Badham and Wayne Brookes, gave numerous opportunities to probe for an opening but the home side held firm and showed why they have been a tough nut to crack on their home ground. Half time duly arrived with Vipers deservedly leading 10-0 and Melton knew they had to up their game in the second half if they were to take anything away from this match.
Some harsh words from the injured coach were called for to remind the players what was required. This obviously had the desired effect as straight from the kick off Melton tore into Vipers and forced a line out. Dan Wakefield took a lovely ball to set up a well coordinated drive by the Melton pack. Vipers were driven back at a rate of knots and Marcus Badham added to his lengthy tally of tries for the season with yet another. The conversion attempt nearly went badly wrong when the ball toppled over as Harvey Green started his run up. However, his quick thinking rescued the moment when he cleverly and calmly picked the ball up and struck a very sweet drop goal that was to prove crucial in the end.
Vipers were stung into a response as they counter attacked particular from their dangerous centre pairing but some crunching tackling from Carl Prior and James Woolley snuffed out the threats. James Stapleford and Richard Foster came on to add some much needed extra zip to proceedings and this lifted the pace in the visitors favour. Both Chris Rose and Harry Wood were unlucky not to make a breakthrough with some well timed runs from deep but they kept Vipers guessing all game as they asked questions of the defenders.
Both teams pressed for an advantage but it was Melton who had the necessary guile to press home the territorial superiority when Sam Badham set up a rolling maul. Quick ball from Chris Rose gave Mark Matthews enough room to side step the cover and a well timed pass to Harvey Green saw him break a couple of tackles and crash over for a critical try and a narrow two point lead.
Melton were then forced to defend for a long stretch as Vipers clawed their way back. Several attacking mauls were stopped inches short as there were some try saving tackles going in amongst the forwards particularly from Adam Chambers and Leon Gormley. Vipers were unfortunate in being denied what looked like a try when the referee was unsighted and Melton tackled themselves to a standstill as Marcus Badham fired them up in the last few minutes and claim a gutsy victory and the league title.
Full credit must go to Vipers for a valiant effort and making Melton work exceptionally hard for what had seemed like an unlikely victory at one point. It was testament to the good team spirit that has been evident all season with the Melton squad that they had to dig deep to carve out a win and then celebrate back to back championships over the last two seasons.
Team: Dave Osborne Marcus Badham Wayne Brookes Sam Badham Dan Wakefield Leon Gormley Sam Dennison Adam Chambers Chris Rose Mark Matthews Carl Prior James Woolley Harry Wood Adam Broughton Harvey Green James Stapleford Richard Foster Nick Crossland