Melton RFC’s hold on the County Cup finally came to an end as they were beaten 22-6 at Syston in a repeat of last season’s final.
To be drawn away at Midlands One East’s form side in round one summed up Melton’s current misfortunes.
It proved a massive improvement on last month’s league defeat, but meeting a settled Syston side on their own patch was always going to be a big task.
The visitors began brightly and with passion as they enjoyed the lion’s share of possession, attacking at every opportunity.
But when Kieran Bugby was yellow-carded, Syston took advantage to score.
This seemed to inspire the hosts, and after the visitors had a try disallowed, Syston extended their lead with a converted try after Melton inexplicably tried to run the ball from their own 22.
The visitors rallied and great work by Sam Badham and Wayne Brookes, followed by scything Klay Radford runs gave Melton excellent position for a lineout catch and drive.
But Melton lacked the necessary patience and the moment was lost as half-time relieved the pressure on Syston.
The second half brought much of the same with Syston defending well and hammering onto the ball whenever possible.
Melton’s defence was resolute with Chris Rose and Matt Cox using the ball well, especially when Jack White and Ollie Circuit were involved, chasing everything and always making yards over the gain line.
Melton kicked two penalties to be right back in the game at 12-6 while the hosts creaked.
Fantastic interplay between forwards and backs, directed by Marcus Badham and Duncan Lennox, took the visitors under Syston’s posts.
But again the time for patience was lost and a penalty allowed Syston to clear.
What could have been a 13-12 lead turned into a 19-6 deficit as the home side scored a decisive converted try out wide after some exhilarating play.
Melton rang the changes, bringing on Luke Pawley and Tom Allen, but they could not influence proceedings as Syston’s centre nudged them further ahead with a killer drop goal.
To Melton’s credit they attacked from the restart and ended the game just short of the Syston line and a consolation score which their much-improved performance warranted at the least.
Proud winners of the cup for the last two campaigns, Melton must now concentrate on improving league form, and with several players returning and a healthy appetite for hard work shown in this tie, the First XV look to be on the right track.
Melton will look forward to hosting Leighton Buzzard in the league on Saturday with all touchline support welcome on vice-president’s day. Kick-off at Burton Road is 2.15pm.