Melton RFC into Midlands final after Woodrush shut-out

Melton heap more pressure on 14-man Woodrush during their semi-final victory EMN-150216-123152002
Melton heap more pressure on 14-man Woodrush during their semi-final victory EMN-150216-123152002
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A superb team performance in testing conditions set up an all-Leicestershire final against Vipers on March 14, writes Rob Goldthorpe.

Melton made a long trip to play a Birmingham side they had never faced before, and with the playing surface muddy and heavy, flowing rugby would be a challenge for both teams.

Both teams tested their opposing defences in an even opening, and Melton stood up well with sound tackling, particularly from Klay Radford and Leon Gormley.

Melton’s pack began to exert greater pressure, and the front row of James Stapleford, Marcus Badham and Wayne Brooks dominated their opposite numbers as technique overcame Woodrush’s greater bulk.

Melton grew in confidence after the first quarter and Woodrush had a man sinbinned when they stopped an almost certain try.

Woodrush shored up their defences and made crunching tackles, but had no answer to Melton’s outstanding attacking rugby. Slick handling and quick ball from Duncan Lennox gave Brooks space to carve through the covering defence, and a good line saw Carl Prior finish a well-worked try.

The injured Gormley was replaced by James Long, prompting a reshuffle among the forwards, but Melton maintained the pressure.

Sam Badham and Dan Wakefield were imperious in the lineout to steal Woodrush ball, and with Nick Crossland and Ryan Kemp first to every breakdown, the hosts lived off scraps of possession.

A classic move again paid handsome dividends when a penalty was kicked for territory and Wakefield took the lineout to set up a driving maul.

Woodrush had no answer as the well-drilled Melton pack drove them back several metres and over the line with Marcus Badham adding to his impressive try tally. Phil Stimson struck a superb conversion from out wide to open a 12-0 half-time lead.

Woodrush tested Melton’s defence as they varied their game well, but Ben Warwick was a rock, well supported by wingers Chris Rose and Lewis Glover who were both tackled short of the line.

Disaster befell the hosts when the same Woodrush player collected a second yellow card and was sent off.

A lack of composure saw a knock-on as Melton looked set to score from another huge drive, but further concerted pressure led to another scrum. As the Woodrush front row buckled, Ryan Kemp picked up at the base and used his strength to carry two defenders over the line for a splendid forwards try.

Outstanding defence kept out Woodrush’s response, and good turnovers switched defence into attacks, well orchestrated by Lennox and Stimson.

Strong runs from Brooks and Wakefield posed plenty of problems, while James Stapleford joined in with a scuttle or two.

Nick Crossland almost set Rose away for another try after a superb break, but the final score was not long in coming.

A superb tackle and turnover by Marcus Badham saw Stimson kick long and the home winger knocked on as he tried to gather.

From the scrum, Lennox spotted Prior running from deep, and the centre took the ball at pace, handed off defenders and crashed through a despairing tackle for a brilliant solo try, converted by Stimson.

Melton: J. Stapleford, M. Badham, W. Brooks, D. Wakefield, S. Badham, L. Gormley, R. Kemp, N. Crossland, D. Lennox, P. Stimson, L. Glover, K. Radford, C. Prior, C. Rose, B. Warwick, J. Long, S. Grindey, D. Osborn, S. Morley.