1st XV Loughborough 12 - 29 Melbourne
By Peter Ilott
Melbourne take bonus point win away at Loughborough
Melbourne travelled down the road to Loughborough RFC on a cold and frosty Saturday where two of the Midlands 2(EN) fixtures were postponed early doors.
Melbourne squad underwent changes from the previous round with the absence of previous MoTM Harry Stephenson, Gary Lakin, Jordan Goddard, Jack Pearce and James Benstead.
Incomers include new signing James Squires, Chris Rudkin making his starting debut of the season, Mark Coyne, Joe Nicholson and Captain Holden returning from injury.
The game was played in a feisty spirit with a strong focus on set-piece as an unusual number of handling errors and penalties saw several scrum sets. Loughborough having one of the strongest set pieces in the league meant that the ball came under decent pressure but Melbourne were never not in control.
The green & gold started brightly and it was Captain Holden who got the first score as the ball came out from several phases in the right hand 15m channel. The Captain playing at inside centre showed the ball to his partner before cutting a lovely inside line to dot down under the posts. He converted is own score 7 - 0.
Loughborough soon responded and from the base of their scrum they used their set-piece to set their attack as a strong series of carrier saw them over the line 7 - 5.
Melbourne immediately responded from the kick-off, securing the ball and attacking through good forward play. The ball came back wide left and into the hands of Page you spotted a gap and dashed through, rounding the last defenders and scoring wide left. Unconverted 12 - 5
A penalty was soon added to the score for Melbourne, from Holden, taking the game beyond a single converted try. 15 - 5. This was how the game remained for a further 30 minutes as the game was finely balanced. Melbourne defence was excellent through out but they were struggling to replicate this with ball in hand. A try from Loughborough spurred Melbourne on, the inside centre dotting down for a converted score 15 -12.
Melbourne finished strong, Percival and Rudkin making several strong carriers as Melbourne found another gear. The impetus was their and Page managed to break through the defence for his second score which was again converted 22 - 12. Not content with this Melbourne went searching for the four try and bonus point, playing with real purpose and direction.
It was with the last play of the game that Melbourne managed to secure the bonus point, retaining the ball well and driving strong through the Loughborough defence is was a good line and strong carry by Rudkin in the far right 5m channel who burst through the line to dot down which Holden converted taking the score to 12 - 29 and a bonus point to boot.
This was a far from polished performance but was industrious and the hunger to gain the bonus point was greatly pleasing. Loughborough have only lost one at home all season and they were a mighty test who accounted for themselves very well.
TRIES: Holden, PAGE (x2), Rudkin
KICKS: 3 X CONV. 1 X PEN 3
MOTM Charlie Livesey