Huntingdon & District 1st XV 15-0 Market Rasen & Louth 1st XV
Rasen travelled to Huntingdon for their first ever encounter at the home of the Stags, but there was nothing racy about the performance despite the close proximity of the Huntingdon race track.
It was a turgid game with one side battling for survival against another seemingly on the verge of self-destruction.
Huntingdon had the first use of a stiff breeze blowing up the pitch and Rasen set the tone for an abject performance as they failed to adequately deal with the kick off by allowing the ball to bounce with no one taking responsibility for its safety.
Huntingdon kept up the pressure and with two minutes gone centre Ben Strangeways crashed over for the opening score.
Five minutes later the Stags stretched their lead with a penalty as fly half Dan Malem, disappointed with his earlier missed conversion, found the sweet spot to send the ball soaring between the uprights.
The slow Rasen start may have been attributed to the journey, but they did briefly show their attacking potential when Chris Everton, forced to fill in again at fly half, made a half break to free Adam Beasley. The rangy centre took the play on and with a clear overlap found flying winger Nick Harvey, only for the referee to call a halt for a forward pass.
This extinguished the one bright Rasen ember of the half, which could have been a potential game changer.
Huntingdon kept Rasen pinned in their own half and the red and greens were profligate with their touch kicking allowing the Stags to run the ball back on several occasions. A penalty kick to touch pushed Huntingdon closer to the Rasen line and following a successful lineout peel the Stags drove on, but the hard working Rasen eight managed to hold them up over the line.
Huntingdon took play away from the resultant five metre scrum and then popped the ball back inside for fullback Tad Chapman to career over the line under the posts. Malem slotted the conversion to give his side a half time lead of 15–0, but was this going to be enough for the Stags who had to face the elements in the second half?
Rasen made a good start to the second period and soon had Huntingdon close to their own line. A lineout catch and drive from the red and greens was well executed, but Huntingdon defended well and held up the Rasen advance. Sadly Rasen failed to capitalise on the position and conceded a penalty to allow the Stags to clear the danger.
Thereafter neither side really threatened to score, but there were glimpses of attacking flair again instigated by Everton. A quick tap penalty from his own twenty two saw the assured fly half skip past several defenders, but the move foundered in the opposition half.
Moments later Everton’s deft chip bounced kindly for Harvey, but the winger couldn’t hang on to the ball and the chance was gone. The forwards work ethic was unquestionable, but despite their efforts there was a nil return as they lacked cohesion.
A scoreless half is an unusual occurrence and an absence of any real drama made it a 40-minute test of endurance for both sets of supporters with the home fans at least having the satisfaction of league points to move their side away from the drop zone.
This was not a great game for either side, but once again the Rasen mentality needs to be questioned as the spirit rekindled in the Derby game seemed to have been a false dawn.
The effort of the majority of the players was not in question, but the application was as there was a lack of cohesion and familiarity previously seen as second nature in the earlier part of the season, but now absent and no doubt attributable to the poor attendance at training.
The loss of experienced heads through injury has not helped, but it is disappointing that the opportunity this has presented to other players has not been grasped by all of them.
With three games to go it is still mathematically possible, although unlikely, for Rasen to find themselves in the relegation zone. A single point from the last three games will definitely secure the league status as Matlock require three five point victories to draw level with Rasen and then need to overturn a 289 points differential to leapfrog the red and greens if Rasen were to remain pointless.
However Huntingdon and Paviors currently lie nine and ten points behind Rasen respectively and could finish above the club if results go their respective ways.
This would be a disappointing end to the season, particularly in view of the quality of play and results pre Christmas, and it is now up to the players to look at themselves and resolve to finish with a flourish.
Next week Ilkeston are the visitors to Willingham Road for a 3pm kick off. The Elks have struggled at Rasen in the past losing on their last three visits and will be looking to lay that ghost to rest, but a red and green revival is long overdue.
Teams: Rasen: Starling C, Alldridge, Ashton, Mills, Pytlik, Denniss, Starling C, Thornes, Starling M, Everton C, Gutteridge, Eddell, Beasley, Harvey, Robinson. Subs: Cole (Ashton), Carson (Pytlik), Norton F (Gutteridge)
Huntingdon: Smith, Muggeridge, Chantler, Bentley, Crowe, Murphy, Thorp, Parker, Skidmore, Malem, Bradley, Strangeways, Morgan, Julian, Chapman. Subs: Davies-Binge, Osbourne, Shakespeare