Market Rasen & Louth 1st XV 22
Loughborough 1st XV 24
On a near perfect autumnal afternoon the red and greens made a strong start against a Loughborough side looking for a morale boosting first win of the season after five straight defeats.
Rasen opened the scoring after two minutes with a well worked catch and drive that propelled number eight Leigh Dearden over the line for the touchdown.
However Rasen failed to build on this early score and it was Loughborough who began to play some enterprising rugby, aided and abetted by indiscipline from the home side, conceding numerous penalties.
Loughborough fly half Waters made no mistake with the kicking opportunities and his sure boot had provided the visitors with a 9–5 advantage by the end of the first quarter.
Loughborough were playing with confidence against a dishevelled Rasen side and almost extended their lead when the ball was kicked on and centre Fisher won the race to the touchdown.
However, the score was ruled out as Fisher was adjudged to have impeded a Rasen defender.
Loughborough continued to exert pressure and taking a quick tap from yet another penalty, engineered a move that saw fullback Smith join the line at pace to scorch over for a try, which Waters converted.
Rasen eventually gained a foothold in Loughborough territory forcing their opponents to concede a penalty, which was drilled into touch. The catch and drive worked perfectly again with prop Chris Starling registering the score to close the deficit to 10–16 at half time.
Loughborough started the second period strongly as the brittle Rasen midfield defence yielded again, allowing the visitors to create an overlap for winger Chomik, but the final pass failed to reach its target and bounced harmlessly into touch.
Loughborough continued to push forward as their momentum was halted by the Rasen pack, but skipper Dave Starling’s part in it was deemed to be illegal and earned him a yellow card. Waters slotted the penalty to continue his faultless kicking performance, but moments later following another Rasen infringement, he registered his first miss and from then on his form deserted him.
Rasen recovered when an adept chip kick from substitute James Bemrose was gathered on the bounce by elegant centre George Edell, who forced his way over in the corner.
This score seemed to lift Rasen as they began to spend more time in their opponents half to build some pressure.
Loughborough finally cracked when flanker Idehen conceded a penalty and received a 10–minute break for his trouble.
The depleted visitors were unable to withstand another catch and drive onslaught as Dearden collected his second try of the game to give Rasen the lead and secure a bonus point. With Meehal Grint landing the conversion, Rasen now had a three point lead, but Loughborough could still sense that victory was possible in the remaining time.
Waters missed another penalty before Rasen flanker Ben Chamberlin received a yellow card with Loughborough surging for the line.
Despite the man advantage Loughborough fluffed the scrummage and conceded a free kick to allow Rasen to clear their lines. With only four minutes remaining Rasen found themselves midway in the third quarter of the pitch when they were awarded a penalty, but an over ambitious kick went dead and Loughborough were awarded the scrum to launch another attack.
As the time ebbed away Rasen regained possession, but a missed touch kick gave Loughborough the chance for one last counter attack.
There seemed to be no way through the resolute home defence until Fisher managed to dive over a pile of bodies to make the crucial score. Waters missed the conversion, but there was still time for the restart as Loughborough skipper Pears exhorted his troops to secure possession and get the ball off the park.
Pears himself secured the catch, but teammates were deemed to be offside and Rasen were given a last chance to snatch victory with a penalty kick for goal.
In a dramatic finale, Grint’s kick struck an upright and bounced down, but was it under or over the bar? The body language of the players indicated it was the latter, but the referee was unsure and consulted the touch judges who ruled the ball had defied the laws of physics to go under the bar to give Loughborough a narrow victory and Pete Dixon the freedom of their borough.
There are no easy games in this league and Loughborough proved that no side can be underestimated. Rasen contributed to their own downfall with a high penalty count and more yellow cards, which urgently need addressing, otherwise further tight games could slip away.
In truth it would have been harsh on Loughborough if Rasen had snatched a last gasp victory as they had played the better rugby.
This weekend brings a stern test with an away trip to league leaders Ilkeston.
Rasen: Starling C, Ashton, Cole, Crowe, Young, Chamberlin, Starling D, Dearden L, Starling M, John, Harvey, Grint, Edell, Everton P, Ward
Subs: (all used) Bemrose, Inman, Routledge
Loughborough: Bartlett, Duffus, Gunton, Pears, Page, Bamber, Idehen, Day, Marsden, Waters, Hamilton, Brown, Fisher, Chomik, Smith
Subs: Salmon, Hay, Partington