Market Rasen and Louth chalked up a third straight league win despite a below-par performance at bottom team Dronfield on Saturday.
The red and greens arrived full of confidence, but poor execution and good fighting spirit from the hosts saw the visitors scrape a win.
On a cold afternoon, Rasen opted to play uphill into a stiff breeze, but despite these challenges they began strongly.
For the first quarter Rasen dominated possession, controlling the ball through the forwards and then looking to put width into their game with Paul Gutteridge a real threat on the wing.
But the killer finish was missing and Dronfield escaped unscathed several times before they had their first scoring opportunity with a 20th-minute penalty.
Fly-half William Moroney’s attempt fell short, but Rasen tried to run the ball from their own goal-line and conceded another, more kickable penalty which Moroney dispatched with ease.
With greater impetus, the hosts kept Rasen pinned in their own half and created a huge overlap for Jerome Gabbitus in acres of space, but fortunately for Rasen the pass was behind the winger and the danger was averted.
Dronfield continued to press and from a penalty lineout they patiently worked the phases before flanker Mac Popham drove forward and stretched to reach the line for the opening try.
It was no more than Dronfield deserved having kept Rasen under pressure for long periods, and it was the visitors who were the more relieved side when the half-time whistle sounded, leaving them 8-0 adrift.
With the elements and slope in their favour, Rasen went looking for an early breakthrough and within three minutes Dronfield conceded a penalty in front of their posts.
But the usually reliable boot of Meehal Grint pulled the ball wide.
Rasen continued to pressure Dronfield who found it difficult to get out of their own territory, and 10 minutes later Grint put Rasen on the scoreboard with a penalty.
A further transgression from Dronfield midway between halfway and their own 10-metre line presented Grint with another chance.
With the wind at his back the distance wasn’t a problem and his kick sailed through to reduce the arrears to two points.
Despite gaining a measure of superiority Rasen were still making basic errors with wayward passes and poor decision-making to keep Dronfield in the game.
A wayward kick was fielded by substitute prop David Haig who charged forward before linking up with Chris Mills whose strong running shredded the home defence.
As the line approached, Grint took a pop pass and powered over the line to put Rasen ahead for the first time.
Grint added the conversion and Rasen should have turned the corner, but that wasn’t the case.
The set scrum was now dominant, but there were still too many unforced errors which kept Dronfield’s hopes alive for their first elusive win.
Rasen’s set piece was too powerful as Dronfield were shunted back into their own 22 where Ben Chamberlin took the ball blind.
Grint steamed up from full-back and was unstoppable as he forced his way over in the corner.
With barely five minutes left Rasen were kidding themselves that they could still get a try bonus, but in forcing the game caused themselves further problems.
A spilled pass was latched onto by Dronfield winger Nicholas Guth who sped away for a try under the posts, quickly converted by Moroney to narrow the gap to three points.
This set up an uncomfortable finale which culminated in indecision when Rasen were awarded a penalty, prevaricating over which option to take before booting the ball off to end a dreary match.
The end result is the only thing that ultimately matters, but this was such a disappointing performance following two superb efforts in recent weeks. The spirit seemed to be dampened as Rasen couldn’t capitalise on a good start and the error count increased to let Dronfield into the game.
There could be any number of reasons for this lacklustre performance, but it is best to move on and reflect on the win itself.
Rasen: C. Starling, Alldridge, Haig (Southwell), Pilkington, Inman, Mills, Pryer (Crowe), Chamberlin, M. Starling, Robinson, Gutteridge, White, A. Dearden, Berger, Grint. Sub not used: Pearce.
* Rasen are without a match this weekend as Spalding cannot fulfil the Lincolnshire Cup tie. The Red and Greens will return to action against Huntingdon in the league on Saturday, November 19 at Willingham Road (2.15pm kick-off)