RUGBY: Market Rasen snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in poor final quarter

Chris Everton spins the ball away from a ruck to set up another Market Rasen attack on Saturday
Chris Everton spins the ball away from a ruck to set up another Market Rasen attack on Saturday

Old Northamptonians 1st XV 24-13 Market Rasen & Louth 1st XV

Rasen travelled to Northampton full of optimism after last week’s win over Newark, despite a rehashed backline that included flanker Dave Starling in the centre and reserve scrumhalf Christian Gregory on the wing.

For 60 minutes Rasen were the dominant side and seemed to have another victory in their sights, but in the final quarter lapses of concentration and ON’s realisation that their under-utilised backline may be more effective than their forwards, who had been second best all afternoon, proved to be decisive.

As the home side, ON made the early running, but after a worryingly long break for injury treatment to Starling, the skipper returned to action and Rasen gave ON a demonstration of their forward power by forcing a scrum turnover that was to set the standard for the red and green dominance in the set piece throughout the game.

Rasen pressure told in the 12th minute when fullback Dan Robinson smashed over a long range penalty, judging the deceptive wind to perfection.

The visitors remained camped in ON’s half, but despite territorial and more possession the red and greens could only add another Robinson penalty before the home team rallied towards the end of the half.

Even then ON were struggling to make their field possession count as they over threw at lineouts and on one memorable occasion young Rasen number eight Henry Spencer caught the overthrow and executed a fine touch kick to exhibit his all round ability.

With the last play of the half Rasen succumbed and ON’s fly half Tom Goodman slotted a penalty to leave Rasen with a slender 6–3 lead at the interval, which was scant reward for the way they had dominated the first half.

The second half began well for Rasen as lock Dan Carson made a powerful run that took his side deep into ON’s twenty-two. ON struggled with this early pressure and soon conceded the first penalty of the half that looked destined to be taken as a shot at goal, but this opportunity was spurned and a kick to touch was ordered.

Rasen won the ball and drove to the line, but were held up, although the referee then produced a yellow card for home number eight Robbie Wright. From the resultant scrum Rasen rammed home their forward superiority as the ON pack disintegrated for the referee to run under the posts to award a penalty try to leave Robinson with a simple conversion.

Spencer gathered a hurried clearance and launched a stunning counter attack, complete with audacious dummying, to steam past several home defenders before he was halted in the twenty two. Gregory had been in support for the whole run, but the travelling supporters were left pondering as to whether a final pass to the stand in winger would have put him in for a try.

The sides were evened up when Rasen lock Chris Mills received a yellow card. Nonetheless Rasen continued to control the game, but Robinson was unable to capitalise on another penalty attempt. A further chance fizzled out when Gregory opted for a chip and chase that was easily dealt with by the home defence and proved to be Rasen’s last meaningful attack as the game entered the dramatic final quarter.

The ON change in emphasis was inspirational and no one on the touchline irrespective of allegiance could have foreseen what was about to unfold, much of it prompted by lively scrumhalf Lewis Barker.

As ON began to get more possession the backline was brought into action to great effect as the Rasen forwards were dragged about the field with ON probing for an opening. As play switched direction, enough space was created for an overlap and winger Richard Blank’s pace was too much for the trailing defenders as he crossed the line wide out.

Goodman was up to the task and nailed the conversion to bring his side to within three points of the visitors.

With their tails up ON were soon back in Rasen territory, although the red and greens had possession and were looking to drive forward.

Unfortunately there was little support for Carson and the ball fell from his grasp in the tackle. ON snaffled the loose ball and quick hands put Blank in for his second try, again converted by Goodman.

In a complete volte-face Rasen were now struggling to get out of their own half and another bizarre decision gave ON a scrum turnover that was to instigate another score.

With possession secured, the backs had first use of the ball until flanker Matt Mills popped up to take it on and charge in under the posts for the score that would wrestle a losing bonus point away from Rasen. Goodman added the conversion and with five minutes remaining ON managed the game to record a victory that had looked unlikely for much of the match and maintain their unbeaten record against Rasen.

This was a disappointing result as Rasen had been the dominant side for much of the game; however mental toughness and perhaps fitness were telling factors in the end.

The side was unable to turn pressure into points at crucial times when another score would have heaped further psychological pressure on the opposition and made the comeback that much more difficult.

Next week Paviors are the visitors to Willingham Road for a 2.15pm kick off. The Nottinghamshire side are now pulling away from the relegation zone after two consecutive wins and will be looking to avenge the 50–7 defeat they suffered on their last visit to Rasen.

Teams: Rasen: Ashton, Alldridge, Wootton, Mills, Carson, Pryer, Dearden L, Spencer, Everton C, Sutton, Everton P, Starling, Eddell, Gregory, Robinson. Subs: Pytlik (Wootton), Stephens (Gregory), Denniss (not used)

ON: Draper, Tribley, Stewart, Liburd, Wiese, Mills, Fullthorpe, Wright, Barker, Goodman, Blank, Love, Spencer, Napier, Rose. Subs: Irvine, Mathers, Tollen