RUGBY Welsh crashed to a heart-breaking 30-20 defeat to Mellish in the Midland Junior Vase semi-final on Saturday.
Welsh saw their largest ever away following descend upon Nottinghamshire to support the side in one of the biggest fixtures in the club’s history.
The hosts immediately issued a warning for how tough the challenge would be though, when early on displaying the physical presence amongst their ranks, but almost gifted a chance when Welsh’s Jack Taylor was inches from intercepting a pass in the centre of the pitch.
Mellish re-focused though and struck with the first try, albeit unconverted, and followed up shortly after with a penalty in their favour.
Proceedings began to go into free-fall for Rugby as they then had a player sin-binned before another unconverted try left Welsh with a 13-point deficit to chase after only 20 minutes played.
Welsh had to dig deep and began to grasp a foothold in the game, the forwards of Jamie Roche and Leigh Colledge began to win more line-out possession for Rugby higher up the pitch, reaping dividends when a catch and drive from a line-out established a route for Lorenzo Galleno to fall over the line for an unconverted try.
A second would follow before the break when Anthony Reynolds received a ball spun into his path and he charged down in the corner to cut the deficit to just three points.
Mellish re-established themselves in the contest though and gained ground through a number of Welsh penalties, later claiming an unconverted try in the corner of the pitch to re-gain some breathing space.
Reynolds’ try mid-way through the second-half and Glenn Bond’s conversion renewed some hope with a point separating the two sides, but would be shaken by a second sin-bin of the game going against them – a high tackle being ruled by the referee.
George Lowe in particular impressed when he stepped up to keep Rugby in the contest, flying into several last-ditch tackles at full-back.
But continued pressure would prove all too much for Welsh to stand firm, and a fourth unconverted try from a Mellish prop’s forward run left Rugby with a mountain to climb.
Bond reduced the gap to just three with a penalty with ten minutes of the game remaining, again renewing hope for a revival.
A converted try with five minutes to go as Rugby chased the game would be the killer blow, ending their hopes of a place in the final.
Mellish advanced but it gave Welsh a chance to reflect on a superb cup journey, who now must carry on with the rest of their campaign when visiting Birmingham Civil Service on Saturday (2pm).