After a week’s rest and the restoration of the first choice 8-9-10 pivotal axis, the red and greens began the game with pace and precision.
But they couldn’t maintain it after the first quarter as Belgrave battled hard to deny Rasen possession for long periods of the game.
Rasen picked up the pace following a brief opening salvo from the visitors and soon had Belgrave struggling in their own twenty two where the only answer to red and green pressure was illegal.
After a couple of penalties, Rasen worked their catch and drive routine for lock Chris Mills to power his way over the line from short range.
Rasen maintained the tempo and continued to probe as Belgrave were forced to live on scraps of possession. An astute chip from fly half Matt Sutton dropped invitingly into space before a fly hack cannoned the ball off players like a pinball machine into the path of Dan Robinson. The young centre kicked the ball on and won the race for the touchdown and then gathered himself to calmly slot the conversion.
From the restart Rasen produced what was to be the best passage of play of the game, oozing quality, skill and commitment.
Mills fielded the kick off and not for the first time in proceedings tore through the first line of defenders with his powerful running. With Belgrave now on the back foot Rasen backs and forwards combined seamlessly with neat interplay and recycling that kept them going forward and leaving the visitors clutching at shadows as number eight Henry Spencer completed the score under the posts. Robinson added the conversion to put Rasen 19–0 up after 17 minutes.
This proved to be a false dawn as Belgrave retained the lion’s share of the ball for the remainder of the half with the home penalty count mounting. Despite this plethora of possession and laying siege in the Rasen twenty two for long periods, Belgrave were unable to pierce the red and green defence before the interval.
Clearly discombobulated by their performance in the second quarter Rasen resumed the contest in the same manner as they had begun the match by exerting pressure on Belgrave whose only recourse was to concede penalties.
The red and greens managed to cross the line on three occasions in quick succession, but all of them were ruled out. It was a pity Rasen couldn’t add to the score in this period of pressure as one effort included a shimmy from prop David Haig that certainly would have earned him “a ten from Len” on Strictly Come Dancing.
The loss of prop Ivan Wright through a yellow card did little to diminish the resolve of a determined Belgrave side, which continued to make life difficult for Rasen and raised the spectre of the dreaded uncontested scrum scenario.
Eventually the red and green machine spluttered back into life as skipper Dave Starling cut back against the grain to slice open the visitors defence with his own brand of power running brushing aside defenders. Play continued and Starling was then on hand again to finish the move he had instigated to secure a try bonus point. Robinson slotted the conversion, but once again Rasen stuttered and it was Belgrave who began to exert some pressure of their own.
The introduction of the lively Gary Chipoka injected a spark with his dangerous running before the forwards took over. Desperate defending from Rasen repulsed a series of drives from the visitors, but on a final push for the line Rasen were adjudged to have prevented the score by foul means and the referee awarded Belgrave a penalty try, which in fairness they had deserved for their tenacity.
Sean Kyle added the conversion, but the elation was short lived as Belgrave failed to retain possession from the restart and Rasen snaffled the loose ball for flanker Ben Chamberlin to scurry in at his favourite corner.
Despite another setback that had seen Sean Kyle yellow carded prior to the last score, Belgrave’s spirit was far from broken and they again took up residence in Rasen’s twenty two where Spencer appeared to be the victim of mistaken identity, receiving a yellow card forcing Rasen to see out the match with 14 men.
In a final flourish Rasen broke the Belgrave shackles as Robinson’s long clearance kick forced the visitors to track back, conceding a penalty deep in their own half. A quick tap from scrumhalf Chris Everton set Rasen going again as a refreshed Mills thrust through a tiring defence to take play within striking distance of the line. Having pulled the beleaguered defenders to one corner, Rasen switched play along the backline for Peter Everton to join the end of the line to sprint in at the opposite corner for a final score.
A real curate’s egg type of performance from Rasen, good in parts, where the margin of victory was perhaps a little flattering and didn’t reflect the balance of possession. However Rasen were able to take their chances and turn pressure into points, which was something Belgrave couldn’t capitalise on and that was the difference.
The start from the red and greens was excellent and there were also other pockets of quality, but these were interspersed with mediocrity. The aim now must be to build on a strong start and maintain this throughout the full 80 minutes.
This Saturday the red and greens make the long trek to take on Bugbrooke who are currently one place above Rasen in the league.
Teams: Rasen: Haig, Alldridge, Southwell, Mills, Dearden L, Starling C, Chamberlin, Spencer, Everton C, Sutton, Everton P. Robinson, Starling D, Pridgeon, Neesham M. Subs: Lawton (Neesham), Pryer (Mills), Pytlik (Dearden L)
Belgrave: Swindon, Towl, Wright, Westly, Harpin, Barnes, Crumbie, Knifton, Kyle S, Kyle J, Wilson, Wells, Warren, Pollard, Curtis. Subs: Ord, Jones, Chipoka.