Melton RFC were left to rue their lack of discipline as their search for a first win of the season continued after a narrow away defeat.
A last-gasp penalty handed Wellingborough a 19-18 win as Melton saw a late lead slip for the second time this season in a game they could and should have won.
The home side started brightly with a series of flowing moves down the slope which tested Melton’s resolve, but sound defence thwarted their ambitions, with Leon Gormley and Charlie Loveday making some excellent tackles.
The game ebbed and flowed with neither side making much headway until a lengthy stoppage when Jack Forfar sustained a cut after a clash of heads.
Chris Merlane made his debut from the bench and immediately made his presence felt in the back row.
And the first score followed from a break out by Melton.
Chris Rose’s astute kick through brought a lineout deep in home territory.
Melton’s drive was stopped short, but another dominant scrum allowed quick ball for James Woolley to create an overlap. Ollie Circuit exploited it with a well-timed pass for Jack Williams who injected pace from full back to dive over out wide.
Harvey Green’s conversion attempt drifted just wide.
Wellingborough responded almost immediately with a penalty from a scrum, converted by fly-half Pete Vickers for a soft three points.
This spurred on the hosts, and several phases of flowing attacks finally gave them the extra man who dived over in the corner, and a well-struck conversion put them ahead.
Just on the stroke of half-time, Green slotted a penalty to reduce the arrears to 10-8.
The second half started well for Melton as the front row of Kieran Stone, Tom Allen and Loveday continued to dominate their opposite numbers.
The referee had little option than to yellow card the Wellingborough prop for persistent infringements, and Melton wisely opted for another scrum from the ensuing penalty.
The hosts had no answer as they were driven back, earning a penalty try and a 15-10 lead.
But straight from the restart Melton conceded a penalty for a lazy offside to hand the home side another easy three points.
A narrow escape followed when an over-ambitious back-handed pass went astray, but after hacking on, the centre knocked on with the line at his mercy.
Yet the visitors coughed up another penalty to give Wellingborough a one-point lead going into the final quarter.
The referee grew increasingly fussy, to the frustration of both sides, and a minor scuffle served up yellow cards for both sides when a stern talking-to may have seemed more appropriate in a match played in good spirit.
The final period brought a succession of scrums on the Wellingborough line as Melton fought for the crucial score.
The home side were equally determined to prevent a score by any means and seemed lucky not to concede a second penalty try against the dominant Melton pack.
But Green’s smartly-taken drop goal gave Melton a crucial two-point lead.
As the clock ticked down, Melton just needed to defend their narrow lead, but the referee awarded a harsh-looking penalty which Pete Vickers converted to snatch victory at the death.
It was a cruel way to lose, but in truth they should have finished the game off long before and not conceded so many soft penalties.
Melton host unbeaten Kettering at Burton Road on Saturday (ko 3pm).
Melton: K. Stone, T. Allen, C. Loveday, J. Long, S. Badham, J. Forfar, W. Brookes, L. Gormley, C. Rose, H. Green, A. Woolley, O. Circuit, G. Collins, J. Woolley, J. Williams, C. Merlane, D. Evans, H. Kazmerchek.