Melton RFC skipper Marcus Badham insists his pacesetting side can get even better as they bid to reach the second tier of Midlands rugby.
The First XV have taken the Midlands Two East (South) division by the scruff of the neck in recent weeks with important wins over title rivals Lutterworth and Market Harborough.
Saturday’s win over Vipers was Melton’s 10th bonus point victory out of 11 this season and took them eight points clear going into the mid-season break. It also extended a daunting unbeaten league run which stretches back to the spring of 2014.
Badham believes the Melton XV will be marked men when the second half of the season resumes on Saturday, January 9.
He said: “I did expect us to be in this position, but whether you achieve what you expect is a different thing altogether so we tried to play things down at the start of the season.
“Now we have become everyone’s cup final and the team to beat, and being unbeaten means we have a target on our heads for other teams.
“We just have to keep going and pushing on.
“We are always looking to improve and develop and I think the rugby will be better when we get into late February and conditions allow us to play the fancy stuff.”
Talk has already turned to the possibility of a return to the second division of Midlands rugby for the first time since the 2007/08 campaign. Yet both Badham and head coach Gareth Collins are mindful not to take their eye off the next game.
“For me it’s one game at a time,” the captain added. “But I have spoken to John (Hill), the chairman, and said we have to be prepared as a whole club if we go up.”
Melton already boast several players who have experience in Midlands One level or above, including Collins, the Badham brothers, Lee Miller and Matt Cox.
The latter pair rejoined Melton this year, and with Mark Matthews’ arrival from Oakham have helped strengthen the overall squad.
Badham also paid tribute to Colts Harvey Green, Harry Green and Christian Jeremiah for their impact on the First XV this year.
“There is competition for places and we are a lot more competitive in training now,” he said.
“The squad is the most important thing in the league above – we would need 25 first team players.”
The only blip in an otherwise unblemished season came in the cup competition at Nottingham Casuals.
But the surprise defeat seemed to sharpen minds and back-to-back wins followed at home to third-placed Lutterworth and at second-placed Harborough. Badham believes the latter result, particularly, could prove crucial.
“The conditions were difficult and we were away from home so to win in that situation meant a lot,” he added. “They will have to come to us and get a result.
“We won’t be playing any our main rivals until the back end of the season and by then the pressure might be more on them than us.”