Midlands Two: Melton RFC promoted after battling Vipers win

Melton RFC savour back-to-back league titles EMN-161204-093108002
Melton RFC savour back-to-back league titles EMN-161204-093108002
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A depleted Melton squad dug deep to carve out the win which earned them back-to-back championships with a game to spare.

Melton’s victory over title rivals Market Harborough the week before proved costly as several players missed the trip to Leicester through injury.

Chris Rose is hunted down EMN-161204-093118002

Chris Rose is hunted down EMN-161204-093118002

The visitors knew a single point would be enough to secure the league title and promotion, but Vipers had pushed both Lutterworth and Harborough close at home. Only their away form left them third-bottom and badly needing a win to secure their league status.

Both sides attacked from the outset with defences stretched in an end-to-end opening. Melton had the first chance when Vipers were penalised at a ruck, but Harvey Green’s well-struck penalty fell just short.

Vipers’ lively set of forwards took the game by the scruff, and their back row threatened all afternoon.

Only sound tackling from Sam Dennison and Leon Gormley kept the defensive line intact, but Vipers finally capitalised with a penalty.

Melton's set piece hauled them back into the game against Vipers EMN-161204-093047002

Melton's set piece hauled them back into the game against Vipers EMN-161204-093047002

Disaster struck soon after when Dan Wakefield was singled out for foul play in the lineout. The referee had chosen the wrong man, but nevertheless Melton had to defend with 14 men for 10 minutes.

The hosts took full advantage when a quick tap-penalty caught Melton napping and the speedy scrum-half was put through a gap to score a converted try. Melton have scarcely been in this position this season, but responded with real character.

Good set piece play, most notably from the rugged front row of Dave Osborne, Marcus Badham and Wayne Brookes, gave numerous chances to probe for an opening. But Vipers held firm until half-time with a deserved 10-0 lead.

Harsh words from injured head coach Gareth Collins reminded the players what was required in the second half, and this had the desired effect.

Straight from kick-off Melton tore into Vipers and forced a lineout. Wakefield took a lovely ball to set up a well-co-ordinated drive by the pack.

Vipers were driven back at a rate of knots and Marcus Badham added to his tally for the season with yet another try.

The conversion attempt almost went badly wrong when the ball toppled over as Harvey Green began his run-up. But he showed quick thinking and a cool head to cleverly pick the ball up and strike a sweet drop goal which would prove crucial.

Vipers counter-attacked through their dangerous centre pairing, but crunching tackles from Carl Prior and James Woolley snuffed out the threat.

Replacements James Stapleford and Richard Foster lifted the pace, and both Chris Rose and Harry Wood were unlucky not to break through with some well-timed runs from deep, as they kept Vipers guessing.

Both teams pressed for an advantage, but Melton had the guile to press home their territorial superiority when Sam Badham set up a rolling maul.

Quick ball from Rose gave Mark Matthews room to sidestep the cover and a well-timed pass allowed Green to break two tackles and crash over for a pivotal try.

Melton had to defend for a long stretch as Vipers hit back. Several attacking mauls were stopped inches short with try-saving tackles going in from the forwards, particularly Adam Chambers and Gormley.

Vipers were denied what looked like a try when the referee was unsighted, but Melton tackled themselves to a standstill as Marcus Badham fired them up in the last few minutes to claim a gutsy victory.

Melton: D. Osborne, M. Badham, W. Brookes, S. Badham, D. Wakefield, L. Gormley, S. Dennison, A. Chambers, C. Rose, M. Matthews, C. Prior, J. Woolley, H. Wood, A. Broughton, H. Green, J. Stapleford, R. Foster, N. Crossland.