Successive defeats from two patchy performances made a trip to league leaders Ilkeston look a daunting prospect, but despite the scoreline the red and greens can take heart from their spirited display.
Ilkeston secured possession from the Rasen kick off allowing scrumhalf Joel Haigh to launch a high kick and with indecision in the red and green ranks, Ilkeston regained the ball.
In the twinkling of an eye, swift precision handling found speedy winger Lewis Taylor to open the scoring followed by Haigh’s conversion.
The high intensity opening continued as Rasen turned the ball over five minutes later and Taylor repeated the dose running round on the opposite wing following deft hands from an unlikely midfield pairing of two Ilkeston tight forwards.
Haigh slotted the conversion, but soon after it was Rasen kicker Meehal Grint’s turn to put over a successful kick with a penalty.
The Elks were relentless, as their forwards came to the fore to drive over prop Ben Wells from a precision lineout catch and drive to extend their lead.
Rasen were forced to live off scraps, but narrowly missed out as winger Nick Harvey was just beaten to the touch down chasing centre George Edell’s intelligent grubber kick.
A further promising attack came to nought, as the forwards secured a good line out ball and drove on only to look up in despair as scrumhalf Mike Starling’s pass went behind his halfback partner and Ilkeston streamed forward to regain possession.
The introduction of Rasen’s new signing Matt Sutton at fly half added some much needed fizz and invention, but it was the Ilkeston forward machine that extended the lead, with a carbon copy catch and drive finished off by number eight Adam Corcoran, converted by Haigh.
Deep in Rasen territory, Ilkeston worked a lineout move to put Haigh through a cavernous gap, but uncharacteristically the lively scrumhalf’s subsequent pass failed to find the target and flew harmlessly into touch to bring the half to a close with his side 24 – 3 to the good.
Ilkeston began the second half with a blitz like they had done in the first period, scoring three tries in the space of fourteen minutes.
An early probing run from the live wire Haigh gave flanker Steve Quinn enough room to take an inside ball to force his way over the whitewash.
Rasen’s task was made harder three minutes later when number eight, Leigh Dearden, was rather harshly yellow carded in the Ilkeston twenty-two.
A penalty and several phases later Rasen were unable to repel another fierce forward drive as Corcoran barrelled his way over the line again.
Four minutes later, a five metre scrum was an ominous portent as Corcoran picked up from the base. Gallant defending repulsed the first wave, but the burly forward was not to be denied as the ball was reworked for him to crash over on the second phase.
Haigh’s boot had been unerring and Ilkeston now had a comfortable 45 – 3 lead with more than a quarter of the match remaining.
However, this was to be their last meaningful attack of the match, as Rasen then dominated the remainder of the game in terms of territory.
The red and greens worked tirelessly to the final whistle, but despite the promptings and probing of Sutton, ably supported by the rest of the side, they were unable to unlock the disciplined and well drilled impermeable home defence.
There were some glaring errors, a knock on at a quick tap penalty and another quick tap to no one, but these were isolated incidents and the players should be proud of the effort they put in following the two previous games, where on occasions the play verged on inept.
Pre-season fitness training has clearly paid off and the motors kept running till the end.
Ilkeston are the best side the club has faced so far, with their slick backs and strong forwards combining seamlessly into a potent force, but for much of the final quarter they were unable to get out of their own half and that’s testament to the spirit and determination of the Rasen side.
The appearance of Sutton was a breath of fresh air and the man looks to have a bag of tricks that will open up lesser defences.
It’s early days, but it would be nice to have some more attacking options and not have to depend on the reliable forwards for all of the scoring.
Rasen: Starling C, Ashton, Cole, Crowe, Inman, Chamberlin, Starling D, Dearden L, Starling M, Grint, Everton P, Bemrose, Edell, Harvey, Ward
Subs (all used): Green, Routledge, Sutton
Ilkeston: McGuire, Moore, Wells, Fowkes, Shoebridge, Quinn, Watkins, Corcoran, Haigh, Lamb, Taylor L, Ayres, Taylor G, Smith, Falls
Subs: Meakin, Smithurst, Taylor D
Next week Newark, currently sitting one point behind Rasen in the league table, are the visitors to Willingham Road for a 3pm kick off.