A stirring backs-to-the-wall performance helped Market Rasen and Louth RFC to a comeback victory at Bugbrooke on Saturday.
The Red and Greens had narrowly defeated Bugbrooke in the home fixture earlier in the season, but had yet to taste a league victory at the Badgers.
The hosts opted to play with the slope, while Rasen had a slight breeze behind them in an eve first half with both sides sparring with the other without seriously threatening their opponents’ line.
Bugbrooke had an early opportunity, but knocked on close to Rasen’s line, while at the other end the visitors tried the usually reliable catch and drive from a penalty, but this went awry.
Chris Mills’ miraculous tap tackle felled Bugbrooke’s dangerous winger Aaron Pepper as the defence appeared to open up in front of him.
With no further threats at either end the two sides were deadlocked at the end of a scoreless first half.
After a Rasen break out early in the second period, Bugbrooke started the brighter with Ben Mann’s long counter-attacking run taking the Badgers deep into the visitors’ territory.
Rasen were forced into a rearguard action as Bugbrooke continued to recycle possession, but they were up to the task.
The defence appeared to have been breached when Tom Wood broke for the line, but the gap was plugged and the scrum-half knocked on over the line.
But the hosts appeared to be gaining the upper hand and from a set scrum on the edge of Rasen’s 22, Tom Davies clung on to an indifferent pass before releasing his backline where Mann steamed up on the end of the line to score on the overlap in the corner.
The deadlock was broken in the 55th minute, but eight minutes later Rasen were back on level terms.
The Bugbrooke score had lifted the siege and Rasen began to spend more time in their opponents’ territory until they eked out a penalty.
Dan Robinson drilled this into touch and this time Rasen made no mistake with the catch and drive as they powered their way to the line for skipper Chris Starling to cross.
The Red and Greens were on top in the set piece and earned another penalty after turning over Bugbrooke’s creaking scrum.
The scene was set for another catch and drive, but this time Rasen opted for a long throw and the ball was turned over and cleared.
Another Rasen attack was thwarted illegally to present another penalty which Robinson converted to put the hosts in front for the first time with 10 minutes left.
But four minutes later the Red and Greens conceded a penalty which Adrian Flynn thumped from long range between the uprights to level.
The tension grew with no-one wanting to make the error that would swing the game while still striving for the all-important score.
With Rasen driving on through the forwards down the far touchline, Bugbrooke cracked in their attempt to halt the momentum.
Robinson was again entrusted with the kick, close to the touchline, and with ice-cool composure the fly-half struck the ball perfectly through the uprights with three minutes left.
The visitors kept Bugbrooke out of harm’s way until the Badgers conceded another penalty, allowing Rasen to clear the ball off the park and end an enthralling game.
There is a break in the league programme this weekend, but Rasen return on Saturday, March 4 with a home game against Dronfield (2.15pm kick-off).
Rasen: C. Starling, Alldridge, Southwell (Haig), Mills, Inman (Grant), Pryer, D. Starling, Chamberlin, C. Everton, Robinson, Stephens, White, Gutteridge (Holvey), Harvey, Goodwin.