Melton RFC Vets were the bridesmaids once again as they came up just short in the County Cup final against Hinckley.
In a repeat of last season’s final, Melton got within four points of their outstanding opponents, but could not find a late winning score.
Playing in the neutral surroundings of Belgrave RFC, the two sides put on a fantastic game of rugby which kept all of the spectators happy.
Melton were very unlucky to come up short for the second year running, and although both teams have improved in the last 12 months, it was the regular players who came out on top again.
Playing with the breeze in the first half, Melton started brightly.
The front five of Dave Osborne, skipper Gavin Prior and Lewis Brooks at the coalface, with Dave Meakin and Dave Barrett in the engine room, dominated their opponents in the scrum throughout.
But disaster struck against the run of play when Melton failed to clear their lines, conceding a soft try and conversion to trail 7-0 after 10 minutes.
Some brilliant defensive work from Paul Emmons, Matt Brooks and Ben Shouler kept Hinckley at bay before Melton launched a counter-attack.
Mark Matthews, at outside-half, put flying full-back Gareth Collins away in space and his amazing footwork beat several defenders before feeding Dave Meakin to score under the posts.
Sam Clemons converted and Melton were level.
Back came Hinckley and only some outstanding defensive work from Emmons, Matt Brooks and Shouler denied them.
Clemons was injured in another seismic collision and had to be replaced by Tom Kempin who immediately made three trademark bulldozing runs to put Melton back in Hinckley territory.
Collins scored a super try to give Melton a 12-7 lead and then on the stroke of half-time, the excellent scrum-half Chris Rose knocked over a penalty to see Melton turn round 15-7 up.
With Melton playing the second half into the breeze, Hinckley were still in it, and outside-half Mark Lord, a veteran of county rugby for 10 years, used the elements to good effect.
Hinckley added a converted try followed by another try, despite having a player in the sinbin, to nudge 19-15 ahead.
As Melton began to run out of steam, Hinckley then scored a well-worked try, and after 10 phases of play they spread the ball wide to their flying winger who glided past Melton’s defence to add another seven points.
But Melton are made of sterner stuff than most teams and a 50-metre break by the brilliant Wayne Brooks, who had a top game in the back row and then in the front row, set the team up for a frenetic finale.
Collins added a second try on his farewell appearance for the club which Rose converted, and with five minutes left, Melton sensed a comeback.
Hinckley, however, are not easily fazed and had enough experience and nouse to see out the game, 26-22.
It was perhaps just the right result after an excellent match, but Melton will rue giving the first seven points away so cheaply, as well as the lack of game time together before this gruelling competition.