Seven Heaven for Melbourne 1st XVIII
By Andrew Jansen
Melbourne maul Ashby in first half blitz
Melbourne welcomed local neighbours and historic rivals Ashby to Cockshut lane on a dry spring Saturday.
Melbourne saw changes aplenty within their squad as they attempt to build some continuity in the squad ahead of the Dronfield match. Ed Whitten remained at loosened prop, James Squires and Jordan Goddard returned to the front row. With Alec Judge a late withdrawal Harry Stephenson came into the row. Percival retained at No. 8 with Iliffe and Benstead completing the backrow. Joe Livesey returned to fullback which saw a shuffle as Stuart and Saffell returned to the wing berths and Jack Fisher moved to to 13 with Charlie Livesey shifted across to 12. The bench saw Matt Suddaby earn a third appearance of the season for the first team, promoted from the Academy. Joe Nicholson and Ben Dickinson completed the bench.
Melbourne started the first half with real purpose and immediately threatened Ashby with the balance of power, pace and skill. Moving the ball from a series of excellent carries into the wide channel seeing Joe Stuart touch down to finish an excellent move and set the tone for the game.
It wasnt long before a second try soon came along as a break by Fisher saw an offload to Joe Livesey who combined well with brother Charlie who stepped and powered his way through the centre of the Ashby defence and scored centrally.
Ashby were not really able to get a hold of the game and the little possession they had was either turned over or kicked away as Melbourne tightened the noose and looked for further scores.
With the forwards having done excellent work in the tight, they then began to threaten in the loose too. A couple of excellent breaks by Iliffe and Stephenson saw the latter support well from broken play and finish off an excellent counter attack. Next to get on the scoresheet was Ed Whitten, the powerful yet pacy loose head smashing through the defensive line to power his way over for a well earned try that was duly converted.
With the bonus point wrapped up Melbourne continued to hunt for more "meat pies" (rhyming slang) and Joe Stuart soon got an excellent second having worked tirelessly in the first half.
The second half saw changes made with Nicholson coming into Loose Head, Dickinson to inside centre and Suddaby at blindside flanker. The game began to tighten up with a series of indiscretions costing Melbourne time on the ball and field position. It appeared that Melbourne could not do any right and were constantly being pinned back due to an absurd penalty count. Despite Nicholson having only being on the pitch for ten minutes and with a track record of four scrums and no penalties, he seemed to be harshly yellow carded for an indiscretion at scrum time. This saw Melbourne reduced to fourteen and loose a front row to boot.
With a man short Melbourne defended stoutly and actually ending up scoring two tries during this period as the irrepressible Joe Livesey broke free inside his own half and stepped and twisted until the ball was worked wide and came back to him to finish an impressive period of play.
A second try saw Jack Percival hit a strong inside line from wide right and break through the defence and sprint to the line for Melbourne's seventh try.
With all seemingly finished it was with the last kick of the ball that Ashby got their only score of the day. A contentious decision seeing as both a knock on and also tackling a man in the air could have been awarded. It wasn't and Ashby were awarded the score.
MOTM - Devon Iliffe
YC/RC - Joe Nicholson (YC)
TRIES - STUART x2, C Livesey, J Livesey, H Stephenson, E Whitten, J Percival
KICKS - Conversions x3 Holden