The red and greens were left to rue missed opportunities a spirited comeback fell just short at Old Northamptonians on Saturday.
On a bitterly cold afternoon ON’s had first use of the slope and wind advantage beginning the game with their customary high tempo approach.
In an early attack Rasen were opened up with alarming ease, but numb fingers spilling the ball gave the red and greens the chance to counter attack from their own half. Fly half Dan Robinson sped through a gap in the home defence before chipping the ball ahead and then won the race to get his boot on the ball again to hack it towards the line. As the ball crossed the whitewash the young student was marginally ahead of his pursuer, but a cruel bobble of the ball took it beyond his reach and into the path of the defender to touch down for a twenty two drop out.
This was to be one of very few excursions into ON’s territory as the hosts kept Rasen pinned in their own half aided by the elements and terrain for much of the first half.
With 12 minutes gone, fly half Tom Goodman made a decisive break through the first line of defence to put Rasen on the back foot and as the ball reached outside centre Jake Spencer a simple overlap try looked inevitable. However Spencer backed himself and fortunately for him reached the line despite the attentions of two defenders when the winger’s run in looked the easier option. Goodman slotted the conversion and two minutes later was lining up another kick for a penalty attempt that drifted wide of the mark.
ON’s maintained the pressure with Rasen virtual prisoners in their own half, but valiant defending limited the opposition to one penalty from Goodman and the added bonus of a yellow card for winger Tom Harris, which left ON’s a man short with time running out on their use of the natural advantages. In view of the conditions a 10–0 deficit at half time reflected a reasonable return for Rasen’s dogged efforts.
Rasen began the second half brightly and were to dominate territory for much of the half in the same manner as their opponents had subjected them to in first period as the advantage of the wind and slope could not be under-estimated.
With 10 minutes gone Rasen kicked a penalty to touch within striking distance of the ON’s line, but the tricky wind resulted in a not straight.
The Rasen eight made quick amends from the resultant scrum shunting ON’s backwards to regain possession and after several rumbles from the forwards, prop Ollie Cole powered his way over the line. Robinson judged the wind to perfection with a superbly struck conversion to further narrow the lead.
Rasen kept up the pressure with the set scrum becoming the dominant force to create several good opportunities. First fullback Paul Gutteridge joined the line with virtually his first touch of the ball before being hauled down with the line in sight, then scrumhalf Chris Everton made a searing blindside break to breach the defence, only to see his intended pass fail to reach its target and float harmlessly into touch.
ON’s Matt Mills had been a constant thorn in Rasen’s side with his clear out work, but the flanker was eventually caught out and received a yellow card. With ON’s fighting a rearguard action and clinging on to their lead this should have given Rasen the impetus they needed to push on for victory.
Again the penalty lineout resulted in a crooked throw, but Rasen’s scrum ascendancy regained the ball for number eight Ben Chamberlin to set off on a charge for the line. With no time afforded to release the ball in the tackle, Chamberlin was harshly penalised for holding on and ON’s temporarily cleared the danger.
The defining point of the game came moments later as Rasen secured possession and created space for what appeared to be a certain score. With the ball tucked under his arm Robinson sped for the line, but determined ON’s defending saw the ball dislodged forward as the fly half made his lunge for the line.
This gave ON’s a new lease of life as they worked their way up field and gave Rasen a torrid final few minutes with their ferocious forward play.
Concerted drive after drive pushed Rasen back and then kept them pinned on their line as ON’s were adjudged to have been held up over the line three times in quick succession before the referee blew for the end of the match with Rasen clinging to their losing bonus point.
With due respect to ON’s final surge this was a game that Rasen ought to have won. The conditions played their part and it is never easy to play with numb hands, but the determined defending of the first half was let down in the second by a lack of precision at key moments.
In the previous game clinical finishing had proved decisive and again this was the case, but in the opposing fashion as the red and greens failed to turn possession into points.
On Saturday Paviors visit Willingham Road for a 2.15pm kick off. Rasen will be looking to bounce back and improve on an under par performance that saw Paviors win the away fixture.
Teams: Rasen: Haig, Alldridge, Cole, Mills, Pytlik, Starling C, Dearden L, Chamberlin, Everton C, Robinson, McStay, Dearden A, Starling D, Beasley, Gutteridge. Subs: Southwell (Cole), Inman (Pytlik), Pridgeon (Dearden A)
ON’s: Ibrahim, Irvine, Stewart, Hughes, Liburd, Mills, Fulthorpe, Hartman, Barker, Goodman, Napier, Rose, Spencer, Harris, Seymour. Subs: Edwards, Brennan, Crofts