Melton RFC reached their first-ever County Cup final after a superb team effort to overcame Oadby after an excellent semi-final last Tuesday evening.
The victory set up a final date at Welford Road with National League Three side Hinckley in early May.
The semi-final was a big game for both sides with important bragging rights at stake. Oadby had home advantage under the floodlights and had pushed Melton hard in the league game at the start of the season.
The match started at a frenetic pace with Oadby making most of the running and Melton slow out of the blocks. They defending valiantly, but were unable to get enough possession to turn things around.
An early missed clearance kick was returned with interest by a pacey right winger who asked Melton plenty of questions all evening.
Oadby’s large and experienced front row muscled their way over from the first lineout to score an early try in the corner.
Melton captain Marcus Badham rallied his team and a concerted drive saw the hosts concede a penalty and Matt Cox’s kick to the corner was inch-perfect.
Dan Wakefield won a clean lineout and after quick ball was spun wide, a miss-move caught Wyggs napping and Harry Wood squeezed into the corner to level.
Having woken up to the fact this was going to be a tight affair, the visitors used their well-drilled pack to exert more pressure with Sam Badham and Ryan Kemp prominent in the loose.
Chris Rose spotted a chance of quick ball and Mark Matthews burst into the line from full-back to release Gareth Collins who galloped in for a fine try. Cox’s sweet conversion made it 12-5.
Oadby were unphased and responded with some strong running which was met by crunching tackles, particularly from Carl Prior and Leon Gormley.
But another strong drive from the well-organised Wyggs forwards tied Melton up and when quick ball produced an overlap, the dangerous winger had enough room and pace to dart over for a converted try to level the scores.
Both sets of forwards were involved in some feisty exchanges throughout and when Lee Miller took exception to one phase, the referee decided his retaliation merited a yellow card.
Melton rode out the storm and half-time arrived with the scores level.
A stern lecture from the coach and captain saw Melton restart strongly and Christian Jeremiah and Dave Osborne began to wear down the home props as their superior fitness began to tell.
An early drive led by Lewis Moult sent Oadby back several yards and when one of their players infringed once too often, he was sent to the sidelines for 10 minutes.
Melton cleverly used the extra man in the forwards to good advantage and a well-organised drive from the ensuing penalty saw Marcus Badham score a superb team try.
Melton used the numerical advantage far better than Wyggs had done as they drove at the defence from every phase of play.
Yet more forwards pressure gave Rose time to send a sublime long pass to Cox who sidestepped and flat-footed the covering defence, accelerating through a tiny gap to score and convert his own try to build a 24-12 lead.
James Stapleford came on to add his guile and lengthy experience into the front row, giving Melton a real edge in the set piece as Oadby began to tire under the relentless pressure.
Adam Chambers and Harvey Green were also introduced to turn the screw on the hosts. Stunning tackling, especially from Lee Miller and Dan Wakefield, denied Oadby any headway, and an impressive piece of defensive teamwork kept Oadby pegged back in their own half.
Melton’s self-belief was tangible as they tore into every element of attack and varied the game cleverly. And after a wonderful piece of footwork on the wing, James Woolley darted in for a brilliant try to seal a stunning victory.
Melton: D. Osborne, M. Badham, C. Jeremiah, S. Badham, D. Wakefield, L. Gormley, L. Miller, R. Kemp, C. Rose, M. Cox, J. Woolley, G. Collins, C. Prior, H. Wood, M. Matthews, H. Green, A. Chambers, L. Moult, J. Stapleford.