Melton RFC look set to face an uphill battle for the second half of the season after opening 2020 with a home defeat to Vipers on Saturday.
The First XV welcomed the Leicester club Vipers to Burton Road looking to start the New Year with a bang, but despite having the lion’s share of possession and territory, they were left to reflect on what might have been after a 26-7 loss.
The result saw Melton remain in 10th place in Midlands Two East (North) at the halfway point of the season, level on points with second-bottom St Ives after two wins in 11.
Injury, illness and unavailability have forced club coach Mike Halford into reshuffling the team on a regular basis in is first season.
Consistent availability is needed, and though the potential is already there, experience is also needed to bring it to fruition.
Sam Badham in the engine room along with number eight Phil Kerr and Chris Rose all showed great resilience both going forward and in dogged defence, but need assistance from other senior players every week to save the season.
Melton started brightly with strong carries from Jake Dixon, Christian Jeremiah and Harry Eley, while Ollie Smith and Harry Wood remained a threat with ball in hand, but need it a little quicker in space.
Despite numerous attacks Melton fell behind to a try out wide followed by a converted try as they squandered possession far too cheaply.
Vipers could not believe their luck as they turned round 12-0 up as a long-range penalty fell agonisingly short.
Andrew Tinnes was transferred over from the Second XV pitch to referee the contest after injury to the matchday official.
Melton had their tails up as the second half got under way and, as in the first half, had many chances, but just could not produce that final pass or drive to get over the line.
Phases of play were excellent, with the pack generally going forward, while tackling, especially from Jack Forfar, Will Garnett, Sam Dennison and Luke Pawley was sound.
But the much-needed score remained elusive. Three drives for the line and collapsed scrums should have produced a vital score, but Vipers were smart at the breakdown and withstood the storm.
Two kicks later and Vipers scored the clinching try, which was converted, and quickly followed it with another as the home side tried to run the ball from deep.
At 26-0 down Melton made some brilliant runs and interchanges of passing as they searched for a score.
It eventually came following a break involving Garnett, Green and Smith whose surge for the line saw Henry Kaczmarczyk in support, and although the pass bounced awkwardly, the winger picked up and flew to the line.
Kaczmarczyk was held by two defenders, but somehow managed to stay infield and deliver the pass back inside to Ollie Smith who claimed a richly-deserved score. Skipper Harvey Green added the tricky conversion to give some respectability to the scoreline.
Melton must take all of the positives from this game as they head to Northampton Casuals on Saturday.