Too many absentees to injury and conflicting commitments cost Melton RFC side victory despite several notable performances against Huntingdon on Saturday.
After a fine performance the previous week Melton could have done with another strong team display to consolidate their position in Midlands One East.
Several players made telling contributions as Melton’s squad was challenged to make the step-up, but too many notable absentees made the final difference in a 29-15 defeat.
The pack was almost completely changed from the previous weekend and the large Huntingdon forwards sensed an opportunity to impose themselves in the set piece.
The visitors launched several waves of concerted attacks which stretched Melton in defence.
Some poor defensive kicking left Melton exposed at times and a failed clearance kick by Harry Wood left the Huntingdon winger space to squeeze in at the corner for the opening score.
Huntingdon maintained the pressure, but outstanding tackling by Klay Radford and Jack Forfar stifled the attacks.
However, far too many penalties were conceded and after a long-range effort fell short in the gusting wind, Huntingdon soon extended their lead from a quick tap penalty when a well-worked dummy created a simple try.
The well-struck conversion opened up a 12-0 lead.
The set pieces were largely dominated by Huntingdon’s hefty forwards and a misfiring lineout also didn’t help the home cause.
A well-drilled lineout catch and drive from another penalty allowed the visitors to drive over from close range to make it 17-0.
Melton needed to find another gear and duly did courtesy of Ollie Circuit’s superb break down the wing, and only a last-ditch tackle prevented a certain score.
Taking heart, the hosts picked up the pace with the determined Nick Crossland and Sam Dennison making real headway, but stout tackling ensured half-time arrived with no further score.
Straight from the restart another stunning Circuit break opened up the defence, but the final pass to Adam Woolley went astray.
However, James Woolley scored a great try shortly after slick handling from Duncan Lennox and Chris Rose, and the latter added a fine conversion out wide.
Melton attacks dominated the second half as they took confidence from a more assertive approach, while Charlie Loveday’s introduction bolstered the front row.
It was Huntingdon’s turn to concede a series of penalties, and Rose kicked one from a tricky angle to pull Melton back to 17-10.
But just as the home crowd were taking heart from the positive play, another penalty allowed the large Huntingdon pack to launch another well-worked lineout catch and rumble over the line for a try and 22-10 lead.
Melton’s response was immediate when Radford’s brilliant break in the centre fed James Woolley in support.
Replacement winger Henry Kazmarezyk capped the excellent work of his centres with a fine score in the corner.
Despite numerous valiant attempts, Melton were playing catch-up in their efforts and an injury to Marius Menhaar didn’t help their cause despite replacement Dave Meakin showing the younger players how to intimidate the opposition in broken play.
An unfortunate breakaway saw Huntingdon’s centre crash through some last-ditch tackles to add late gloss to the scoreboard.
Melton: C. Jeremiah, T. Allen, L. Pawley, S. Dennison, M. Menhaar, J. Forfar, W. Rush, N. Crossland, D. Lennox, C. Rose, O. Circuit, J. Woolley, K. Radford A. Woolley, H. Wood, D. Meakin, C. Loveday, H. Kazmarezyk.
* On Saturday, Melton face a testing trip to third-placed Kettering who are enjoying another strong season (kick-off 2.15pm).