Melton RFC set up county cup final showdown after Oadby classic

Kieran Bugby's try gave Melton a vital early advantage EMN-170321-102830002

Kieran Bugby's try gave Melton a vital early advantage EMN-170321-102830002

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Melton RFC will return to Welford Road to defend their Senior County Cup after edging a tight semi-final at in-form Oadby on Friday evening.

The teams met under floodlights at Oval Park in a rematch of last season’s semi-final, and the teams served up a classic cup tie with the result in doubt right until the final whistle.

The holders went into the game as favourites, lying sixth in the league above Oadby, but the hosts are having a notable season of their own, lying third and unbeaten since December.

Determined to exact revenge for the previous cup encounter, Wyggs started at a ferocious pace with some flowing rugby, and only determined tackling from Dan Wakefield and Simon Peters stifled the threats.

The game ebbed and flowed as both sides sought to take advantage of possession and territory, but Melton hit the front when Kieran Bugby crossed following some fine handling between forwards and backs. Harvey Green’s conversion from out wide drifted just off target.

Melton maintained the pressure, bossing possession, but Wyggs were outstanding in defence and tackled everything thrown at them.

The hosts responded with numerous attacks, particularly through the middle, but Klay Radford and Leon Gormley made some crunching hits to stem the tide.

Both sides deserved credit for maintaining such a level of intensity throughout, and Melton came closest to the next score when Carl Prior took Chris Rose’s flat pass at pace, but was hauled down by a fine tackle from the full-back.

Half-time arrived with the game finely poised, but Wyggs cut the gap to 5-3 with a penalty two minutes into the second half with a finely judged kick.

With confidence buoyed, Oadby had the upper hand for several phases, but Melton were up to the task with fine defensive work, particularly from Mark Matthews and Duncan Lennox.

Despite the attacking waves, Melton responded in fine fashion with some robust charging runs from Sam Badham and Harry Wood.

The visitors attacked from deep with excellent interplay and were rewarded with a scrum close to the home line.

The front row of Wayne Brookes, Marcus Badham and Kieran Stone had caused problems for the home pack all evening and a well-driven scrum put the opposition in trouble.

A try looked certain, but the Wyggs pack crumpled and the referee awarded a penalty try under the posts. Green’s simple conversion made it 12-3.

The home response was to launch several determined attacks, and Melton came under some real pressure.

Melton should have cleared their lines with more sensible kicking tactics, but opted to keep it tight.

Dan Belcher came on to bolster the back row and was immediately into the fray when Melton were depleted by a yellow card.

Dave Osborne was forced into the front row in a swap for a back and coped remarkably well despite the pressure.

Unfortunately a defensive error from a lineout handed the Wyggs flanker a gift-wrapped opportunity to dive over from close range, and a well-struck conversion made it 12-10 to set up a tense finale.

A monumental defensive effort denied Oadby a score, and the tension was finally lifted when Melton attacked downfield and ran down the clock for a fine victory which they ultimately deserved in a thoroughly entertaining game.

Melton will meet old rivals Syston, narrow winners over Lutterworth on Sunday, in the final on Wednesday, May 3.

Melton: W. Brookes, M. Badham, K. Stone, S. Badham, K. Bugby, L. Gormley, S. Peters, D. Wakefield, D. Lennox, C. Rose, H. Green, C. Prior, K. Radford, H. Wood, M. Matthews, D. Belcher, A. Brooks, D. Osborne, R. Foster.