Melton RFC eye more silverware in Welford Road return

Jubilant scenes as Melton RFC lift their first-ever County Cup at the home of the Leicester Tigers EMN-170305-121408002
Jubilant scenes as Melton RFC lift their first-ever County Cup at the home of the Leicester Tigers EMN-170305-121408002

Melton RFC head coach Gareth Collins believes retaining the Senior County Cup will be an even bigger achievement than last year’s epic win.

Twelve months ago, a last-gasp Matt Cox penalty gave Melton a thrilling maiden County Cup triumph as the heroic underdogs shaded a Hinckley side who had just won promotion to National League Two.

Skipper Marcus Badham gets his team on the front foot as Melton made a flying start against Hinckley EMN-170305-121357002

Skipper Marcus Badham gets his team on the front foot as Melton made a flying start against Hinckley EMN-170305-121357002

The First XV will again face National League Three opposition in Tuesday’s final, but this time opponents with contrasting fortunes.

Syston go into the match freshly relegated into Melton’s league after finishing bottom.

But Collins believes there will be more pressure this time around.

“This year is obviously different because we aren’t going into it with so much confidence due to our league form,” he said. “And there is, perhaps, more expectation and therefore more pressure than last year.

Syston RFC coach Chris Tarbuck EMN-170305-121422002

Syston RFC coach Chris Tarbuck EMN-170305-121422002

“I think winning this year would be an even greater success.”

There are a few notable connections between the clubs who are separated by less than 10 miles, with Collins having served under head coach Tarbuck during his time at Leicester Lions.

Melton skipper Marcus Badham, meanwhile, and his older brother Sam both played for Tarbuck at Syston before returning to spearhead Melton’s revival three seasons ago.

Collins is wary of the threat the Blue and Blacks will present, especially after their semi-final win at Lutterworth who finished the season two places higher than Melton.

“Syston would have to be favourites despite their relegation and we expect a very tough test,” he added.

“They have some quality in their squad and have been in the league above for some time so they will be used to playing a higher level.

“Tarbuck likes to play a fast, free-flowing game so I expect them to move the ball around from all areas.

“I think both sides will have a fair idea about how the other wants to play so it will be an interesting game tactically.

“I believe we can win and that’s exactly what we are going there to do.”

Melton achieved their highest-ever league finish this season with sixth place in Midlands One East, but lost their final three games.

They will also have to do without Collins, who played a big role in last year’s cup final win, after a recurrence of a serious knee injury.

But he and long-term injury absentee Nick Crossland are the only losses from a full-strength squad, with the experienced Lee Miller also expected to return after several months out.

Collins said: “It’s always disappointing to miss out on big occasions like finals, but it’s time for some of the younger players to step up.

“The final last year meant so much to everyone involved in the club and I was so glad to play a part in that as coach and player.”