Melton RFC’s winless away run continued as a depleted First XV suffered their heaviest defeat of the season at Kettering on Saturday.
Injuries forced head coach Gareth Collins into last-minute changes to take on an experienced side who sat third in the table.
Handling was always going to be testing in wet conditions and regular downpours, but Melton made the worst possible start when Kettering won a lineout in the opening minutes and drove their well-organised pack over the line.
The score was well converted by Owens, a fly-half with experience at a much higher level who would prove a problem throughout with his astute reading of the game.
Not to be daunted Melton attacked from the restart and Wayne Brookes cleverly stole the ball at the breakdown, and when Kettering infringed, Matt Cox slotted the penalty.
But a scrum penalty was then conceded to make it 10-3.
The scrums were a problem most of the afternoon as several infringements at the set piece and rucks went unpunished and Melton regularly gave up valuable territory by querying these decisions.
Kettering had the upper hand for long phases as they strung several passages of play with good support running. A simple pop pass and switch gave them a try under the posts and a simple conversion.
James Newman then spent 10 minutes on the sidelines for upsetting the referee, the first of several yellow cards.
Kettering continued to dominate broken play and ran in a third try following some smart thinking and close support to open up a comfortable 24-3 half-time lead.
The hosts made light of the wet conditions with some very intelligent rugby, but Melton too often kicked away possession as they strived to get back into the game.
The Kettering back row were unforgiving as they tackled with real venom, and frustration boiled over as the referee refused to stand for any back chat and sin-binned Wayne Brookes.
While Melton were down to 14, Kettering’s pack took advantage to drive over a lineout from a well-worked catch and drive.
The referee intervened again when he decided Lee Miller had infringed and gave him a yellow card which was changed to red for alleged dissent.
A seven-man scrum made it all the more difficult for Melton in the set piece, leading to the referee awarding Kettering a penalty try as a scrum rumbled towards the line.
Determined not to be totally outplayed, Melton had a purple patch of very good rugby and finally played with some determination.
Good handling from Dan Wakefield, Marcus Badham and Leon Gormley gave them the territory to take play into Kettering’s half.
A clever lineout move, with Sam Badham setting up the maul, saw Collins link superbly from full-back and jink through to score and then convert.
But that was Melton’s final word as Kettering finished things off with a penalty and then an interception try in the dying minutes despite being down to 14 themselves.
Kettering undoubtedly played the better rugby in the conditions, but Melton must learn to get over their away form difficulties and not allow the frustration of strange refereeing decisions to disrupt them.
The final game of the year is a county derby with Lutterworth on Saturday (kick-off 2.15pm).
Melton: W. Brookes, M. Badham, Stone, S. Badham, Wakefield, Bugby, Newman, Gormley. Rose, Cox, Prior, Woolley, A. Brooks, Wood, Collins, Osborne, Miller, Evans.