With a strong wind blowing almost end to end this match was destined to be won by who best managed the elements.
Peterborough had first use of the wind and its strength was amply illustrated in the opening minute as home scrumhalf Patrick Webb was unable to convert a relatively simple penalty kick and then Rasen fullback Matt Sutton couldn’t get the ball over the line from the twenty-two drop out restart.
With most of the early play in the Rasen twenty-two the red and greens managed the situation efficiently taking the ball up through the forwards. Relieving touch kicks were driven to extinction in the face of the strong gale as the Rasen forwards battled manfully against the wind and the opposition.
Rasen managed to cross the halfway line several times, but one mistake and the ball was back deep in their own half, although Peterborough initially struggled with the advantage, sending kicks over the dead ball line on a couple of occasions.
Having safely negotiated the first quarter Rasen seemed set to maintain their solid defensive line until Peterborough winger Chris Sansby was unable to take an ambitious pass and knocked the ball on into touch. With the howling gale a scrum was the sensible choice, but inexplicably Rasen opted for the lottery of a lineout. The ball was lost and this set Peterborough on a sustained assault of the visitors’ line. Rasen conceded a penalty close in and with a quick tap Webb glided over the line in the 26th minute to open the scoring and then calmly slotted the conversion.
Undeterred Rasen forced their way back into their hosts half, but then conceded a penalty at a scrum and trundled back to their twenty-two to face another Peterborough onslaught. Having held Peterborough up to concede a five metre scrum, the usually sound red and green pack creaked as they were driven backwards for number eight Andy Barringer to claim a pushover try.
Webb added the extras and as the half was drawing to a close Rasen looked to have limited the damage to two scores. However crucially possession was lost and the dangerous Sansby powered his way through several attempted tackles before linking up with his forwards and culminating with Barringer crashing through for a decisive third score close to the posts. Webb made no mistake with the conversion to give Peterborough a 21–0 lead at the interval.
The deficit was not insurmountable and following a tactical change the link between forwards and backs improved to give Rasen a foothold in Peterborough territory.
An early score from number eight Leigh Dearden from a quick tap penalty after sustained pressure gave Rasen hope, but just like the visitors had done in the first half Peterborough dug in and played a simple driving game to retain possession and frustrate the red and greens.
In fact Rasen could only muster one other meaningful attack in the third quarter when Sutton ran the ball out of defence and found flyhalf Chris Everton with a long pass. Everton took the ball on and then chipped over the defence, but was impeded by his opposite number Tom Williams, who looked odds on for a yellow card. However Everton’s impetuous push on Williams caused the referee to reverse the penalty and the danger passed.
Williams wasn’t so lucky in the 21st minute as Rasen attacked in the home twenty-two and the Peterborough man was deemed to have gone off his feet to earn a belated yellow card. Rasen opted for the scrum from the penalty and then took the ball wide for Sutton to outflank the defence to score wide out.
Peterborough were made to pay again for their absentee three minutes later as Rasen broke out, managing to keep hold of passes, something that had not been in evidence for much of the game, as Christian Gregory finished the move with a neat dummy to take him between two defenders. It was third time lucky for Sutton as he mastered the wind with a fine conversion to bring his side to within a score of the opposition.
Peterborough, who had been win-less this season, were in a determined mood and although Rasen had been chipping away at the scoreline the game was finely poised and the red and green error strewn performance did not inspire confidence. The Rasen twenty–two was largely uncharted waters as far as Peterborough had been concerned in the second half, but on their first visit in the 33rd minute Rasen conceded a penalty and Webb struck a fine penalty into the face of the wind to leave the visitors needing two scores for victory.
Playing catch-up rugby adds to the pressure and it didn’t sit well with the Rasen XV who then suffered further humiliation as the busy Sansby scorched through to score a try with the final play of the game, snatching away the consolation of a losing bonus point and giving Peterborough a well deserved first win of the season with a bonus point of their own.
The key to this game was the ability to adapt to the conditions and Peterborough with a limited game plan did this much better than Rasen, who on occasions found it difficult to rein in their expansive game that wasn’t conducive to the conditions and resulted in too many dropped passes.
The start to the game was impressive with the mindset and application being spot on, but as Peterborough opened up a lead there appeared to be a distinct swing in the mental pendulum between the two sides and as the error count mounted the indomitable Rasen spirit of previous weeks dissipated.
The loss of skipper Dave Starling through illness prior to the game left the side without a rallying point that was clearly evident in the closing stages of the match.
Whilst availabilities have been a problem in recent weeks, the restoration of the first choice halfback pairing is vital if Rasen are to play the expansive game that has been so successful this season.
Next week The Badgers of Bugbrooke make their first visit to Willingham Road for a 2.15pm kick off. Rasen suffered a heavy defeat in the away fixture and will be looking to bounce back from this week’s loss.
Rasen: Pytlik, Alldridge, Ashton, Mills, Carson, Pryer, Denniss, Dearden L, Starling M, Everton C, Gregory, Norton F, Beasley, Harvey, Sutton. Subs: Wootton (Ashton), Crowe (Carson), Smith (Norton F)
Peterborough: Stapleton, Throne, Cade, Crooks, Hodges, Youngs, Loades, Barringer, Webb, Williams, Thompson, Walter, Pearce, Sansby, Warlow. Subs: O’Connell, Hartwell, Gunn