RUGBY: Market Rasen dig deep to seal Ilkeston win

Dave Starling
Dave Starling

Rasen travelled to Ilkeston looking to record their first victory at the home of the Elks since the red and greens promotion two years ago.

After an early Ilkeston attack Rasen found themselves in their hosts twenty two, but fancy footwork from Ilkeston fly half Lewis Taylor extricated the Elks from this dangerous position and set up a counter attack that was to prove a let off for the visitors.

Swift handling from Ilkeston moved the ball from one side of the pitch to the other and eventually created space for left winger Isaac Taylor for what appeared to be a regulation run in. Incredibly Taylor suffered a geographical malfunction and over ran the small dead ball area to touch down outside the field of play for a relieving Rasen twenty two drop out.

The red and greens made their way back up the sloping field and punished Ilkeston as they conceded their first penalty for fullback Meehal Grint to bisect the uprights with his well struck kick.

The Elks continued with their high tempo, high pressure game, causing Rasen to spill the ball in midfield just outside their own twenty two. Ilkeston took full advantage and quick transference of the ball, found number eight Simon Bennett who charged down the touchline to score in the corner, much to the delight of the partisan home supporters.

Playing up hill and facing an Ilkeston side full of running, Rasen were forced to defend for long periods of the first half, but number eight Henry Spencer caught Ilkeston unaware from a scrum on half way. He picked up from the base of the scrum and broke blind with acres of space in front of him. As the defence came across he chipped ahead and Ilkeston were forced to concede a five metre scrum.

A loose long pass from scrumhalf Chris Everton bobbled in front of fly half Matt Sutton and appeared to have been knocked on, but with no response from the referee Sutton re-gathered and forced his way over the line under the posts to leave Grint an easy conversion.

Clearly aggrieved at this decision Ilkeston stormed back into the game with Bennett breaking from a scrum deep in Rasen’s half to find Isaac Taylor desperate to make amends for his earlier gaffe. This time the winger just managed to get the ball down in the right area as a flying tackle from Spencer almost took the Ilkeston man out of play before he could score.

Ilkeston now had their tails up, but they were soon undone by their own attacking ambition. A long cut out pass failed to reach its target and fell to the ground. Alert winger Peter Everton hacked the loose ball forward and as he pursued his kick the ball obligingly bounced up into his arms as he was in full stride. After skipping through the last despairing tackle he crossed the whitewash to give Rasen an unexpected half time lead of 15 – 10.

The last score of the first half seemed to have taken the wind out of Ilkeston’s sails as Rasen became the dominant force in the early stages of the second half.

Grint was unable to convert a penalty in the second minute, but Rasen maintained their momentum and kept Ilkeston pinned deep in their own territory. As the ball broke loose skipper Dave Starling was on hand to re-gather it and set off on a mesmerizing run that bamboozled the home defence as he made his way to the line. Grint found his kicking boots again and added the conversion to give Rasen a 12 point lead.

Unfortunately this score was just what Ilkeston needed to jolt them back into life as they got their game back on track with a renewed vigour. Reaching the plateau of the Rasen half, Ilkeston were awarded a penalty after 22 minutes, but spurned the chance of chipping away at the lead with a kick at goal. Instead they opted for a touch kick, but again ambition overtook them as the kick was over hit and went into touch.

Undeterred Ilkeston continued to keep a stranglehold on Rasen as the red and greens struggled to get out of their own half. A yellow card for Spencer paved the way for Ilkeston to narrow the margin a minute after his departure as their forwards rumbled over the line with Bennett the scorer. Jonathan Falls landed his only successful kick of the day to bring Ilkeston within five points with nine minutes still to play.

Rasen were forced to continue with the rearguard action and did manage the occasional venture over the halfway line, but the tension was palpable when Sutton emulated his Ilkeston counterpart by over hitting a touchline penalty dead. With the crowd baying for blood the red and greens put their bodies on the line for what seemed like an interminably long period before the final whistle, but somehow they managed to hold on for another win.

A mixture of skill, good luck and downright bloody mindedness resulted in a famous victory for the red and greens.

The bench stepped up to the mark when injuries robbed the side of influential players to minimise the effect of their absence and once again the tremendous spirit of the whole team shone through.

Ilkeston threw everything that they had at Rasen and they were met with staunch resistance, although the first line of defence was on occasions somewhat brittle.

This week marks the half way point of the league programme as visitors Kettering remain the only side yet to be played. Kick off is 2.15pm and with Kettering lying one place below Rasen in sixth and also winning this week, it should prove to be a fascinating contest.

Teams

Rasen: Ashton, Alldridge, Cole, Mills, Chamberlin, Pryer, Starling D, Spencer, Everton c, Sutton, Everton P, Norton F, Beasley, Harvey, Grint

Subs: Carson (Norton F), Gregory (Everton C), Wootton (Cole)

Ilkeston: Mcguire, Moore, Holland, Gray, Fowkes, Watkins, Soar, Bennett, Partington, Taylor L, Taylor I, Elley, Smith, Falls, Heath

Subs: Wells, Smithurst, Pottinger