Senior County Cup
MELTON RFC 17
SYSTON RFC 16
By James Long
Sam Badham’s late, late try saw Melton RFC come from behind to snatch victory from rivals Syston in the Senior County Cup final.
With the 80 minutes played, Melton refused to give up and pushed for that all-important winning try.
And Badham duly delivered in the dying seconds.
It was a case of lightning striking twice for Melton.
Twelve months earlier they had lifted the trophy for the first-ever time thanks to a last-gasp penalty from Matt Cox - who ended this year’s final by proposing to girlfriend Beth Pick on the Welford Road turf - securing victory over Hinckley.
And on Tuesday evening they retained the cup in a finale as equally thrilling.
After a mixed season in the Midlands 1 East League competition, Melton ended the season with something to celebrate.
But for Syston, who took to the pitch following their relegation from the National League 3 Midlands, it was yet more misery and frustration.
However, Syston had showed impressive form and determination in the county cup competition to reach this stage.
The atmosphere grew between the rival teams and an anxious excitement was present as the sides kicked off.
The first few minutes of the match saw Melton make good attacking ground deep within the Syston half.
A sharp attacking line run by lock Badham almost led to a score had it not been for an excellent tackle by the Syston centre Adam Nunney.
A cross field kick attempt was gathered loosely but Syston recovered possession and were able to clear their lines.
Syston’s defence remained strong and organised, with an impressive kick chase putting pressure on the Melton back three of Harry Wood, Harvey Green and Mark Matthews, who remained solid throughout the evening.
A drop goal was attempted but missed by Melton flyhalf Cox, offering Syston another opportunity to clear their lines.
Syston drew first blood with a 48 metre penalty, kicked by centre Adam Nunney, to make the score 3-0 following a Melton offside infringement.
A second penalty for Syston, scored by Nunney from 30 metres out after a Melton offside, made it 6-0.
Melton then gained some attacking momentum and were awarded several penalties at the scrummage, in what was a dominant performance throughout the night by the Melton front row of Kieron Stone, Marcus Badham and Wayne Brooks.
Several skirmishes of organised attacks and high balls from both sides saw an impressive counter attack from Syston to score a well-worked try, which was converted to see Syston lead 13-0 at the interval.
Melton returned to the field for the second half knowing there was no option other than to give this last match of the season everything.
After several phases of good attacking rugby, Melton found themselves with an attacking scrum metres from the Syston try line.
A well-executed scrummage resulted in Simon Peters scoring from the back of the scrum, converted by Cox.
Syston came back with some impressive attacking play and tactical use of territory kicking, including two line out steels by Klay Chapman.
However, the Melton forwards exerted their dominance in the scrum, resulting in a foreseeable yellow card for Syston prop Josh Kilby.
Making use of the additional man, Melton where awarded another scrum within the Syston red zone, and a clever pick from Simon Peters at number eight earned Melton a second try with an unsuccesful conversion.
A penalty late in the second half from Nunney moved Syston 16-12 ahead, going into the final 10 minutes.
Melton pulled all their energy and efforts together for a final drive up the field.
They maintained possession and ran direct and hard into the Syston back line, particularly centres Carl Prior and Klay Radford, who showed great resilience and organisation in sustaining the attack.
A tap and go penalty taken within the Syston half set up an impressive bombardment on the Syston tryline by the Melton forwards, reinforced by the centres.
After recycling the ball for around 15 phases and being awarded a penalty advantage, Melton lock Badham managed to break through the almost impenetrable Syston defence and ground the ball behind the try line.
There was a nervous wait as the officials discussed the try, before the referee awarded the score, guaranteeing Melton the victory.
The conversion was missed by Cox, but Melton had secured a dramatic 17-16 victory.
Melton had succeeded against the odds in defending the county cup title after an impressive second half comeback, especially under immense pressure in the final moments of the match.
Continuing to build on the impressive form over the last three seasons under coach Gareth Collins and captain Marcus Badham, everything was left out there on the field.