It was a familiar story on Saturday as Melton RFC’s league woes continued despite another encouraging performance in Northampton.
As with many matches this season, Mike Holford’s men played very well in spells at Casuals, but could not convert them into the all-important points.
Home advantage is normally of massive benefit, but this wasn’t necessarily the case here as Melton’s young squad enjoyed big periods of the game with good possession and territory.
All the squad made great contributions and the pack, led by the outstanding Sam Badham, generally dominated the set-piece and even stole several of Casuals lineouts through Sam Dennison.
The front row of Harry Eley, Christian Jeremiah and Luke Pawley dominated in the tight and carried well in the loose, while Harry Wood and Will Garnett always looked dangerous with ball in hand, especially in space.
Klay Radford was superb in the first quarter, carrying the ball over the gain line every time he was in possession, but Melton missed his power play when he was injured in yet another bulldozing carry into the opposition 22.
He was replaced by Leon Gormley who bought his own brand of elusive running and first-up tackling back to the team.
It was a bonus to the squad to have him back after a long spell out injured and Melton need him in the back row as soon as possible.
The visitors started brightly, but gave away the ball rather cheaply, allowing Casuals a glimpse of the try line and they were quickly 5-0 up.
The hosts soon added a converted try while Melton were reduced to 14 players after a transgression at the breakdown.
Jack Forfar and George Kaczmarczyk tackled everything, earning a penalty which Harvey Green slotted to reduce the deficit to 12-3.
Chris Rose and Archie Hutchinson began to get better ball, and with sensible kicking the visitors were awarded another penalty which Green knocked over with excellent use of the breeze.
After Radford’s injury-inducing drive, the field opened up and Green dropped a lovely goal for three points, and game back on at 12-9.
Frustratingly, two strange penalties against Melton from the restart gave Casuals a chance out wide which they took, and then landed the conversion to nudge into a 19-9 half-time lead with the breeze in their favour after the break.
Melton’s large travelling support feared the worst, but the visitors gave a plucky display and with a little more composure might have scored that elusive try.
Phil Kerr carried the ball well in the loose, while Henry Kaczmarczyk intercepted a certain try.
Gormley, Green and Wood all combined well in lightning-fast breaks, but Melton just couldn’t force a score.
An interception by the Casuals set them on their way, spurning at least three chances before they eventually scored under the posts to move onto 26 points with their bonus-point try.
Melton returned without points, but must take heart from the territory and possession their energy and enthusiasm produced.
They may have to go back to the basics of playing rugby, preferably in their opponents’ half, using the conditions as best they can and building on a solid platform that the pack can clearly provide.
Melton will want as big a squad of First XV players available for a season-defining period, beginning on Saturday with the visit of Long Buckby to Burton Road.
The rearranged fixture kicks off at 2.15pm and a good touchline support would be welcome.