In previous encounters Kettering have employed their potent attacking backline to great effect and this game was no exception.
Fullback Joe Daniel gave a virtuoso performance to cruelly expose Rasen’s defensive frailties that had contributed to their downfall the previous week.
The red and green cause had not been helped with the unavailability of seasoned first team backs as they took to the field without a recognised fly half and an inexperienced back three.
Kettering’s intentions were clear from the outset and within two minutes Daniel had joined the line to skirt around the Rasen defence before linking with his winger James Taylor, who then popped the ball back inside for Daniel to run in under the posts. The fullback converted his own try and five minutes later landed a well struck penalty to confirm the home side’s early dominance.
After this set back Rasen reverted to their strength in the forwards with the eight men in red and green working tirelessly to take the ball up, but with a lack of cutting edge in the backs there was no outlet to capitalise on the forwards momentum. As a consequence Rasen only made limited forays into Kettering’s half, although the home side were also having difficulty penetrating the visiting defence and the early fears of a rout appeared to have been allayed.
Eventually Rasen established a foothold in Kettering territory to cause some consternation as their driving play forced their opponents to concede a number of penalties. From a line-out peel Rasen battered away at the Kettering line with a succession of pick and drives before prop Ollie Cole finally breached the defence to force his way over the whitewash in the 13th minute.
The Rasen joy was short lived when a hurried clearance kick from Dan Robinson, who thus far had acquitted himself well in the unaccustomed position of fly half, was gathered by the ubiquitous Daniel who mounted another counter attack.
In the mean time Kettering’s right winger Damien Conyard unbeknownst to the inattentive narrow Rasen defence had positioned himself wide on the opposite touchline. Glancing up Daniel spied his team mate in acres of space and delivered a perfectly weighted cross field kick into the path of his waiting winger. Conyard gathered the ball with ease and cantered in totally unopposed to leave Daniel with a simple conversion to compound the punishment. Daniel had a further opportunity to extend the lead with a penalty when Rasen were bizarrely judged to have deliberately wheeled a scrum, but he was unable to add the points and Kettering ended the half with a 17–5 advantage.
Rasen began the second half brightly when young number eight Henry Spencer, strangely out of sorts following a collision in the first half, charged down a Kettering kick in midfield. The ball was hacked on and after some desperate Kettering defence Rasen were awarded a scrum with the try line in their sights. Unfortunately Rasen were unable to capitalise on the position and trundled back after been penalised for the use of a hand in the scrum.
Kettering maintained their high tempo game and a quick tap penalty almost caught Rasen napping before a Kettering knock on halted the play in the Rasen twenty two. Undeterred, Kettering continued to build the pressure and following a line out peel, a snipe from scrumhalf Ryan Conyard was held up over the line for a five metre scrum. The Rasen eight dug deep and showed their mettle to win the scrum to afford the visitors a brief respite before another misplaced clearance kick failed to find the safe haven of touch.
Daniel fielded it and once again set off for the line with purpose. Like dazzled rabbits in headlights the Rasen defenders were mesmerized by Daniel’s running as they backed off him until it was too late as he added a second try to his personal tally with consummate ease.
Kettering then wasted a gilt edge opportunity after creating an overlap, but the final pass to Taylor was behind him causing the winger to check his run in gathering the ball and allowing the covering Rasen defence to bundle him into touch.
In a final throw of the dice Rasen reshuffled their backline to bring skipper Dave Starling in to the centre, but in a cruel twist of fate he was unable to hold on to a difficult pass in the Kettering twenty two that allowed the home side to break out. Taylor sprinted away, hugging the touchline, but seemingly lacking confidence in his own speed casting backward glances at his pursuers.
He was right as he was hauled down in the Rasen twenty two, but despite their numerical superiority Kettering prolonged Rasen’s agony as an outbreak of white line fever saw Kettering drive into Rasen defenders before sense prevailed and the ball was moved out of reach for centre Joe Newman to register the inevitable score.
With time running out Daniel completed his hat trick of tries by gathering another poor clearance kick to run through with barely a hand laid on him by a now tired, apathetic and despondent Rasen defence. The fullback rounded off his performance by slotting the conversion to complete a very satisfying afternoon for himself and his teammates.
Rasen were miraculously still in the game approaching half time, but defensive frailties were cruelly exposed in a backline that lacked conviction and awareness.
This Saturday Mansfield, who have also suffered defeats in their first two games, are the visitors at Willingham Road for a 3pm kick off.
Rasen: Starling C, Haig, Cole, Mills, Chamberlin, Pryer, Starling D, Spencer, Everton C, Robinson, Lawton, Eddell, Pridgeon, Norton F, Dwyer
Subs: Alldridge (Cole), Gregory (Robinson), Inman (Mills)
Kettering: Ling, Fraher, Cox, Toseland, Horgan, Chapman, Block, Newman G, Conyard R, Dawson, Taylor, Newman, Butlin, Conyard D, Daniel
Subs: Martin, Bannister, Byrne