After the excitement of the County Cup last week, Melton RFC were given a dose of reality in the league with a disappointing defeat against Huntingdon.
Little was at stake with both sides sat comfortably in the top half of the table with a few games remaining, but the home side were looking avenge a narrow defeat in the away fixture.
On a glorious spring afternoon, Melton started brightly enough with some concerted pressure and had an early opportunity to open the scoring, but Harvey Green pulled a penalty effort just wide.
Huntingdon’s large pack of forwards kept it tight at times as they trundled up the pitch, but were frequently turned over by Dan Belcher and Leon Gormley with some trademark back row defensive tackling.
The visitors have been playing in this league for several seasons and used their experience to good effect when a rolling maul was stopped just short. The outside centre timed his run to perfection and took the ball on the burst to score under the posts with a simple conversion to follow.
Huntingdon took heart from this score and turned the screw as they ground out valuable territory. Slick inter-passing following concerted pressure gave them an overlap out wide to score a well-worked try.
This was soon followed by an almost identical effort as they kept up a relentless pace and scored again to open a 17-0 half-time lead.
Strong words from head coach Gareth Collins and captain Marcus Badham at the break saw Melton tighten up in defence.
But there were still too many needless penalties conceded at crucial times, and Huntingdon were unlucky not to extend their lead when a penalty fell short.
Melton gradually got on top in the set piece as the front row of Kieran Stone, Marcus Badham and Wayne Brookes gave their opposition at torrid time.
A series of scrums were regularly penalised against the visitors and the hosts should have kept the drive going at times to maximise the advantage, but were too eager to release the backs and Huntingdon tackled and covered well.
Duncan Lennox came close to scoring when he broke from scrum-half but was robbed of the ball over the line.
Melton started to chase the game in their efforts to narrow the gap and did well as Mark Matthews linked with his centres Klay Radford and Carl Prior, but Huntingdon marshalled their defence very well to frustrate them.
Good chances proved few and far between despite their best endeavours and when a wayward pass was intercepted to gift a try to the visitors the game was effectively beyond Melton’s reach.
However, the team rallied well as Charlie Loveday and Simon Peters came on to provide fresh impetus. They continued to dominate the scrum, but the lineout misfired at key moments, allowing the visitors to clear.
Marcus Badham rallied the team and the pack drove their opponents back several metres for Dan Wakefield to score out wide and add some respectability, but it was not enough as Huntingdon ran out deserving winners.