Melton RFC Under 12s arrived in positive mood for their first-ever County Cup finals.
The boys knew this would be their toughest test against the best sides in the county.
The opening group game against Oakham was a big physical contest with Sharpe, Mills and Knott matching Oakham tackle-for-tackle, ruck-for-ruck in a scoreless first half.
Melton couldn’t match their fierce tackling after half-time, and despite D’Oliveira’s probing run which deserved a try, too many missed tackles saw well-drilled Oakham run in two unanswered tries.
Hinckley were next up, and in a tight, forwards-driven opening, the team’s tackling and commitment was much improved as Ford, Mills and Tilston put their bodies on the line in another scoreless first half.
Dorsett almost put Melton ahead with a strong run which was held up on the line, but they succumbed to a controversial sucker-punch try.
Facing elimination, Melton responded well in their final group game against Vipers.
Neath’s brilliant run fed Hardman who was tackled just short, but Dickson powered over for an excellent try.
The second half followed a similar pattern with Melton dominant.
From another typical Hardman drive, Thorpe and Snodin took the team forward, and Neath and Tilston showed good hands before D’Oliveira’s brilliant straight run took him through three tackles to score for the try of the day.
The 2-0 win left Melton third in the group and through to the semi-finals of the bowl competition against Market Bosworth.
Injuries to Dickson and D’Oliveira limited resources, but Dorsett used his quick feet and strength to breach Bosworth’s defence and score in the corner. But his error at full-back from a clearing kick allowed Bosworth to equalise.
Hardman showed his true value after half-time and burst through the centre to restore the lead. Neath’s blistering pace then exposed a gap in Bosworth’s defence and his 40-metre run ended in a decisive third try.
Melton met a physical Ashby side in the final, but were physically spent. The only positive in an otherwise forgettable 5-1 defeat was Hardman’s defiant touch-down.
But they can be proud of a season capped by a county runners-up trophy.
Melton: Knott, Ford, Tilston, Mills, Sharpe, Thorpe, Snodin, Dickson, Dixon, Hardman, Jeal, Dorsett, Attewell, Cropper, Neath, D’Oliveira.
* The under 10s were in the county finals yesterday, and after a tough start the team lost their first two games, but won their third.
The results left them third overall; a massive achievement for the players and their coach Dave Brooker.