Melton RFC First XV gave head coach Gareth Collins a rip-roaring farewell as they chalked up only their second league win of the season.
While the Firsts still have county cup business to attend to, Saturday marked Collins’ final home match before taking up the head coach role at National League Two outfit Leicester Lions.
Facing Collins’ hometown club, Rugby Lions, Melton paid their coach back with a 34-27 victory as the relegated team left the Midlands One East on a high note.
A large touchline crowd of sponsors and supporters were not disappointed as both teams played attacking rugby in a genuine rollercoaster from the kick-off.
Lions had influential outside-half Ricky Aley pulling the strings throughout as he returned to his home club for the afternoon.
The first half was a breathless affair with both teams scoring four tries with only a conversion separating the teams.
Melton opened the scoring early on through Harry Cank who damaged his shoulder in the action and had to leave the field as his run of bad luck continued.
Jake Dixon was next to cross following a period of sustained pressure, and Harvey Green added the conversion for a 12-0 lead.
But back came Lions with two tries to close the gap to 12-10.
Melton regained the initiative and in-form scrum-half drove over, with Green again adding a difficult conversion.
But Rugby stormed straight back from the kick-off, adding a converted try out wide from Aley to reduce the lead once more.
Melton were back down in the corner after some outstanding play from captain Leon Gormley and Klay Radford.
From the lineout Melton caught and drove with man-of-the-match James Cavanah burrowing through to touch down.
But the visitors had the last word of the first half, scoring a fourth try to cut Melton’s lead to two points at half-time.
After a brief pause, the second period came and was a real war of attrition as the hosts really stood up for the cause, battling up front and out wide.
Luke and Jordan Pawley were magnificent at the front row coalface, while Dan Evans was coming of age in the second row.
Sam Dennison got through a real shift at number eight and his back-row partner Jack Forfar couldn’t stop making tackles and breaks in a proud performance which was ended prematurely by a facial injury.
Harry Wood is almost back to his very best, looking for work off his wing and making several excellent tackles.
Melton’s fifth and final try was a collector’s item and probably try of the season.
After defending for five minutes in their own half, Hutchinson fed Chris Rose who broke to the left, beat a defender and sent a deft chip into space down the touchline near the 10-metre line.
Flying winger Aiden Smith plucked the ball from the arms of his opposite number, bounced him into touch and set off for the line.
Smith handed off three more tackles before stretching for the line under the posts.
Green added the conversion for a 31-22 lead, and five minutes later landed a superb penalty to nudge the home side up to 34 points.
Lions, to their credit, responded and camped on the Melton line, and despite dogged defence, they finally picked up and scored out wide following four scrums. Melton kicked off, held on and the full-time whistle blew to great cheers, toasting a win which will serve the team well next season in Midlands Two.
The First XV face Oadby Wyggs at Oval Park on Saturday in the County Cup semi-final.