Market Rasen & Louth 1st XV 27 Ilkeston 1st XV 17
After a two week break for the arctic conditions, a return to action against high flying Ilkeston appeared a daunting prospect, but with the Derbyshire side succumbing on their last two visits to Willingham Road, the red and greens had history on their side.
Ilkeston made a bright start to open the scoring in the third minute. Marshmallow tackling allowed centre Greg Taylor to slice open the defence and give supporting fullback Jonathan Falls an easy run to the line. With scrumhalf Joel Haige adding the conversion, it was the perfect start for the visitors.
In the away fixture an early try had precipitated a deluge of scores, but this Rasen side is now made of sterner stuff and the red and greens were back on terms within five minutes.
A tap penalty in the Ilkeston twenty-two was driven on by the forwards before the ball was released to the backs with fullback Matt Sutton joining the line at pace. Moving the ball to Peter Everton, the winger then danced inside two defenders before off-loading to supporting hooker and birthday boy Tom Alldridge to cross the whitewash. Sutton added the conversion, but the euphoria of scoring masked a vulnerability and Rasen were in arrears again within three minutes.
Defensive frailties resurfaced with fly-half Jake Lamb gliding between two defenders to set up Greg Taylor for a canter in under the posts leaving Haige with another easy conversion.
This second wake-up call had the desired effect as the red and greens pulled together to create a defensive wall that was almost impermeable for the remainder of the match.
As Rasen mounted another attack, the referee extended her arm to indicate that advantage was being played. Seizing the opportunity, prop Chris Starling drove on with his piston legs pumping over the gain line deep into the heart of the visitors’ defence. A pop to marauding number eight Dean Hutchinson, now at full tilt like a charging buffalo, proved unstoppable as he powered his way over the line. Sutton’s conversion gave Rasen parity at the interval as the two sides were locked at 14 points apiece.
The pressure seemed to be getting to Ilkeston as their restart failed to travel 10-metres, giving Rasen a scrum on halfway.
However they soon recovered to exploit a temporary reversion in the Rasen tackling to breach the first line of defence, only for their own forward pass to bring the move to a halt.
A charged down kick pushed Ilkeston deeper into Rasen territory as the home side couldn’t regain control of the ball and eventually conceded a penalty. Haige made no mistake with the kick, but moments later Sutton cancelled this out with his own penalty. The kicking contest continued with another penalty attempt from Haige, but facing a stiff breeze his kick fell short and wide.
As the two sides vied for supremacy the game entered the final quarter with the outcome still in the balance. Rasen drilled a penalty into touch as a prelude to the once vaunted catch and drive, which recently had lost some of its potency.
This time there was no mistake as the routine was executed to perfection to drive lock Leigh Dearden over the line to give Rasen the lead for the first time in the match.
There was still 13 minutes to go and Ilkeston were not content to settle for a losing bonus point, but their cause was dealt a massive blow when Greg Taylor was adjudged to have entered a maul with a swinging arm and the referee dispatched him with a yellow card to play no further part in the game.
Rasen couldn’t capitalise on the ensuing penalty, but with two minutes remaining the red and greens were awarded another penalty. Skipper Dave Starling made the bold decision to spurn the kick at goal and opted for the touch kick.
With adrenaline pumping, the forwards were up to the task and secured possession from the lineout. After an initial surge the momentum seemed to have been curtailed, but Chris Starling peeled off the maul and raced to the line for the score that secured a valuable bonus point and totally vindicated his sibling’s choice of option.
This was a fine performance that shows how far the team has come and what a difference a win can make. Pre-Christmas, early scores all too often pre-empted further scores and impossible catch up situations, but now the team has belief and mental fortitude to overcome these setbacks.
Ilkeston’s tries were the result of sloppy defending, but the team responded in a positive fashion to remedy the problem and produce some fine attacking play themselves.
The nature of the league is such that virtually any side can beat another so the team needs to maintain the momentum generated within the last two games.
This week it’s another home game as Spalding are the visitors to Willingham Road for a fixture that has been postponed twice due to the weather. It’s third time lucky and hopefully a third victory in a row for the red and greens.
Rasen: Starling C, Alldridge, Cole, Chamberlin, Dearden L, Mawer, Starling D, Hutchinson, Noquet, Goodison, Everton P, Dearden A, Beasley, Robinson, Sutton
Subs: (used) Bulivant, (not used) Crowe, Starling M
Ilkeston: Meakin, Moore, Mills, Smithurst, Shoebridge, Quinn, Pottinger, Corcoran, Haige, Lamb, Taylor L, Ayres, Taylor G, Mahoney, Falls
Subs: Chapman, Smith, Wells