Depleted Melton moved nine points clear in Midlands Two East (South) with six games to go after a hard-earned win over Belgrave.
The Firsts were missing several players injured or unavailable, but were keen to make a statement against the only team to have denied them victory in the league this season.
Belgrave, who held Melton to a 22-all draw in the reverse fixture, started very brightly in a bitterly cold wind with strong breaks which tested the home defence.
The backs looked dangerous with ball in hand and were not afraid to run at Melton from broken play and set piece, but sound tackling snuffed out the early threats.
The first penalty went to Melton who kicked to the corner for a lineout.
This has been a profitable area all season and so it proved again when Sam Badham set up a strong driving maul and Marcus Badham dived over in the corner. Matt Cox added the touchline conversion.
But the visitors’ response was immediate when their winger cleverly chipped over the defence and gathered his own kick for a try in the corner (7-5).
Melton used their dominance in the forwards to good effect when a set scrum gave them a solid platform to attack.
Chris Rose had plenty of time to weigh up his options and a miss-move saw Gareth Collins’ sidestep leave just enough room for Adam Broughton to squeeze over in the corner. Cox struck another fine conversion from out wide.
Belgrave wasted no time in launching another sweeping attack from the kick-off which brought a well-worked converted try in the corner to leave the game finely poised at 14-12.
A long kick into the Melton half was well-taken by Mark Matthews, but the speedy Belgrave backs were up quickly.
And when Broughton’s attempted clearance kick was charged down, the visitors pounced for an opportunist try and a deserved 17-14 half-time lead.
The hosts attacked down the slope in the second half and continued to dominate in the forwards, particularly through the front row of Bobby Prior, Marcus Badham and Dave Osborne.
A scrum to Belgrave saw a lovely heel against the head and quick ball from Richard Foster gave the Melton backs time to spin the ball wide to Broughton for his second try.
The Melton pack continued to pressure as Lee Miller and Phil Cowey caught the eye with their strong running.
Another rolling maul gave Cox room for a delicate chip over the onrushing defence, and a fumble allowed Collins to dive on the loose ball and score. Cox added the extras.
Belgrave were again stung into attack and made good ground into Melton’s half, but excellent tackling from Gormley and Matthews foiled them.
The pressure began to tell as Melton infringed too often, resulting in yellow cards for Foster and Miller in quick succession.
Belgrave made a fundamental error in not opting for a scrum against six players when close to the Melton line, and instead the home defence withstood the onslaught and remarkably cleared their lines.
A yellow card reduced Belgrave to 14 as they conceded valuable territory and conceded too many penalties as the game swung back to Melton.
Another well-worked set move saw Carl Prior smash through the centre. Phil Cowey was first to the breakdown and crashed over from close range, and Cox added the conversion.
The hosts varied their game well and continued to press home their clear advantage in the forwards. And when the Belgrave back row infringed at a set scrum, Melton opted for another kick to the corner.
Sam Badham set up another fine rolling maul with an enormous drive to the line and Marcus Badham added his second try.
Christian Jeremiah, Sam Dennison and Adam Chambers came on to help close the game out and Melton duly capped a fine second half with Cox’s precise penalty.
Melton: M. Matthews, A. Broughton, C. Prior, G. Collins, B. Warwick, M. Cox, C. Rose, L. Miller, R. Foster, L. Gormley, S. Badham, P. Cowey, D. Osborne, M. Badham, B. Prior, S. Dennison, C. Jeremiah, A. Chambers.