Melton RFC slipped to their third defeat at second-placed Old Northamptonians, but the match merited a much closer scoreline.
After a fortnight’s break, Melton returned to Midlands One East action with a tough fixture at a team who had been playing National League (Midlands) last season.
There were some changes for Gareth Collin’s side with the welcome return of Klay Radford in the centre, while Josh Palmer made his first start at scrum-half.
Melton kicked off with a slight wind advantage and attacked with passion and determination. The scrum has been a potent weapon this season and from the first set-piece the visitors drove the ONs pack backwards at a rate of knots.
Unfortunately referee Gary Malpas nullified this advantage, failing to award Melton a single penalty despite their dominance in the set scrum.
The hosts broke upfield from their own half and were only denied by Matt Cox’s try-saving tackle. But a penalty for offside was conceded shortly after and ONs opened their account.
The referee infuriated the travelling supporters as they called for an infringement when he waved play on, and the winger scored with an overlap and converted to open a 10-0 lead.
Marcus Badham rallied Melton who applied concerted pressure as they took the game to the hosts with some excellent flowing rugby.
The forwards maintained the pressure, and turnover ball from Leon Gormley caught James Newman lurking out of position in the backs.
But he took the ball at pace and broke through for a well-executed try. Josh Palmer’s conversion drifted narrowly wide.
The purple patch continued after the restart as Melton fought their way back, and it was nip-and-tuck all the way with Kieran Stone and Sam Badham taking the game to their opponents.
Unfortunately decisions continued to go against Melton, and when a loose defensive kick was astutely run back by the dangerous, pacy home backs, the hosts scored in the corner.
The visitors called for a forward pass, but the try, and the 15-5 lead, stood at half-time.
Early in the second half, Lee Miller was told to leave the field, even though no infringement had actually taken place, and everyone was completely bemused when he was allowed to rejoin the game shortly after.
This unsettled Melton who couldn’t exert their dominance in the scrum, and from Kieran Bugby’s woeful pass, the alert scrum-half pounced to score a fortuitous try.
Old Northamptonians were playing well, using their speedy backs at every opportunity, and only some stunning tackling from Klay Radford and Mark Matthews kept them out.
Every time Melton spun the ball out to the wing they were frustrated with neither Harvey Green or Harry Wood able to show their pace as they were quickly closed down.
The final score came from a well-worked miss pass in midfield and a try in the corner capped a well-deserved win for the hosts.
The defeat was a setback for Melton who have an important home fixture on Saturday against Paviors for the Vice-President’s Match (kick-off 3pm).
Melton: M. Matthews, H. Green, K. Radford, C. Prior, H. Wood, M. Cox, J. Palmer, K. Bugby, L. Gormley, L. Miller, J. Newman, S. Badham, K. Stone, M. Badham, W. Brookes, J. Stapleford, A. Chambers, D. Lennox.