Signing off in Style
By Matt Derbyshire
Melbourne break Dronfield's unbeaten run
Melbourne travelled to the outskirts of Sheffield for their final league match of the 2018/2019 campaign, facing a strong Dronfield side who were unbeaten in ten league games.
There were limited changes to the squad from the previous Ashby game, although with a hooker crisis Jack Percival shifted into the middle of the front row. Tom Warren and Alec Judge returned to number eight and second row respectively. Ben Dickinson started on a wing berth alongside Oli Saffell and Joe Livesey completed the back three with Joe Stuart among the replacements.
Conditions were dry with a downfield wind. Melbourne were playing down the bank from the kick-off and against the wind. It was Dronfield who opened the scoring despite a strong start from the visitors. The threatening Joe Farrell, playing at fullback, created their first score as the lively player darted through a midfield opening to get in behind the main defensive line only to be met by a hard hitting Joe Livesey who stopped him dead in his tracks. However, three phases later the home side scored as a hard carry and inside line got them over the try line.
Melbourne looked to respond immediately and it was from a wide miss pass by Jack Fisher that freed Charlie Livesey down the wide left hand channel, who cut back and forth to make good yardage before off loading to brother Joe who continue to drive forward and then return the offload back to Charlie who accelerated through the covering defence and scored left of the posts to draw the scores at 7 - 7.
With the ground like concrete and little grass to soften the impacts it wasn't long before Melbourne had to ring the changes with knocks and impacts affecting the squad, Joe Stuart replacing Joe Livesey following a stamp to the knee and Joe Nicholson replacing Ed Whitten in the front row.
A penalty, central to posts, allowed Dronfield to take the lead once again as they stretched ahead by three points 10 - 7. This was once again short lived as Melbourne yet again found a response and worked the ball up the pitch through the powerful and persistent Ben Dickinson who drove the visitors forward down his right flank with some fantastic runs and carries. Melbourne attacked the fringes and found frailty as they made hard yards. It was James Squires who finally bulldozed over the line with a short hard drive to score. 10 - 12.
A pattern was beginning to establish itself within the game, as Dronfield then claimed their second score once again through the physical running of their inside centre who broke free of a tackle to make the line. 15 - 12.
With the second half underway, Melbourne received the kick with Ben Dickinson exiting from his own 22 with an exquisite kick that put the visitors just outside the home side's five meter line. Following excellent ball retention and a number of phases moving the ball between the flanks it was Joe Nicholson who charged over the try line with a powerful run taking the scores to 15 - 19 with a conversion to boot (from captain holden).
Melbourne began to gain the ascendancy with Dronfield's threats becoming less frequent and the green and golds ball retention improving as the match progressed, this was combined with impressive defence from both sides.
Melbourne's match winning score, and try bonus point score, came courtesy of tighthead prop James Squires as he claimed his second of the day. Once again the powerful prop charging through the fringe defence to score right of the posts (as pictured above). 15 - 26
Dronfield were to have the final say of the game as loose play, by Melbourne, allowed them to break down the right flank and score a converted try taking the score to 22 - 26. This was to be the final score of the game as Melbourne's campaign defence stood strong and repelled any further attacking threat.
This was a fitting tribute to the season, as both teams played excellent rugby from the first to last minute. Both sides clearly wanted the spoils and despite league positions having been previously established the teams gave a great account of themselves with a true display of competitive rugby.
MOTM - James Squires
TRIES: Squires x 2, C Livesey, J Nicholson
KICKS: Holden x3 Conversions