Melton produced some of their best rugby of the season on Saturday as they moved one win away from wrapping up the league title.
Mid-table Sleaford went into the game with a recent win over a good Kesteven side, so Melton knew they could not take their opponents lightly.
Despite more enforced changes to injury, Melton had a strong line-up including an exciting new centre partnership.
Sleaford started the game at pace and took advantage of uncharacteristic fumbles and dropped passes, but when Melton hit their stride they did so with real menace and serious intent.
Ryan Kemp dominated the lineout all afternoon and from his steal, the ball was spun wide through several pairs of hands to Chris Rose whose turn of pace saw him dart over in the corner.
Soon after, swift passing among the forwards by James Long and Marcus Badham released Fabio on the wing who dived over to score. Phil Stimson converted from out wide.
Another well-taken lineout by Kemp set up an unstoppable driving maul. The ball was spun wide and Gareth Collins flat-footed the defence with a shimmy and soft-handed pass to Carl Prior whose storming run to the line capped a wonderful try. Stimson added the extras.
Kemp disrupted another Sleaford throw and when Rose chipped over the defence, the home winger fumbled the ball. Sam Badham gathered and left several tacklers trailing in his wake before off-loading to Dave Osborn who scored a fine forwards try. Stimson added a well-struck conversion.
The forwards dominated every phase with charging runs from Wayne Brooks and Lewis Moult, who had another storming game in the back row.
Stimson was allowed too much time and space at fly-half and after taking a high ball in defence, he side-stepped and jinked his way through before feeding Carl Prior on the burst. He brushed aside some ineffectual tackling and Collins took the scoring pass. Stimson duly converted.
The final score of the half came after several phases with Nick Crossland making the initial break and hard yards. Well-controlled quick ball gave Collins room for an arcing run and a deft pop pass to Lewis Glover who crossed in the corner for a 38-0 lead.
Tweaked and tired muscles meant a reshuffle in the backs with Duncan Lennox slotting in at scrum-half, but the game went flat.
Melton’s discipline slipped as they grew frustrated by several refereeing calls, and James Long spent 10 minutes in the sinbin after taking exception to a tackle off the ball.
Strong words from captain Marcus Badham got the team back on track, and tough tackling by James Stapleford and Moult stemmed the tide, while Ben Warwick made another try-saving tackle.
A frustrated Sleaford conceded a penalty from which Stimson’s long raking kick found touch. Long took the lineout to set up another powerful driving maul, and Marcus Badham dived over.
The final score came from a superb flowing move from side-to-side involving almost every Melton player. Warwick’s well-timed break and Marcus Badham’s dummy fed Rose who steamed up the wing for a well-worked try.
A bonus point victory on Saturday against second-bottom Amber Valley would ensure Melton could not be caught. Kick-off 3pm.
Melton: W. Brooks, M. Badham, J. Stapleford, J. Long, S. Badham, L. Moult, R. Kemp, N. Crossland, C. Rose, P. Stimson, C. Prior, G. Collins, L. Glover, T. Kempin, B. Warwick, D. Osborn, B. Prior, D. Lennox.