Rasen travelled to Matlock for the first fixture of 2014 to play in conditions not dissimilar to their previous outing at home to Scunthorpe.
The green covering soon disappeared into a sea of mud that precluded any expansive rugby and the game quickly evolved into a forward slog, although both sides tried to use their backlines.
Matlock had the better of the early exchanges, clearly fired up to avenge the thrashing they had endured at Willingham Road earlier in the season, with Rasen making a sluggish start and conceding penalties.
The cultured boot of home fullback Chris Young kept Rasen pinned in their own twenty two and after three minutes Matlock capitalised from a lineout instigated by Young’s penalty touch find.
The catch and drive proved irresistible as Matlock pushed Rasen backwards and giant prop Dave Ball made the touchdown. Young added the conversion to give the home side the perfect start.
Rasen’s woes continued in the 11th minute when Meehal Grint, standing in at fly half for the ill Matt Sutton, dislocated his shoulder forcing Mike Starling to come on at scrum half and push Chris Everton into the number ten berth. With play barely recommenced after this reshuffle, prop Danny Wootton sustained an injury and the visitors were forced into another premature substitution. Meanwhile Matlock maintained the pressure and were winning the territorial battle to keep Rasen prisoners in their own half.
The home side extended their lead following a delicate chip from Young that turned the red and green defence for the electric pace of winger Henri Packard to win the race for the touchdown.
In the second half Matlock emerged re-energised and soon had Rasen on the back foot. In the fifth minute centre Adam Beasley’s first offence for slowing the ball down resulted in a yellow card.
Young slotted the penalty and Rasen now literally faced an uphill battle to get anything out of the game.
The third quarter of the game was largely an arm wrestle played out in the centre of the field as the cloying mud debilitated both sides.
Further disruption occurred for Rasen when Peter Everton was forced to leave the field with breathing difficulties and skipper Dave Starling had to withdraw from the forwards to bolster the backline.
However this didn’t prove to be detrimental as Rasen pushed for their first score with Matlock conceding a penalty and handing Rasen a numerical advantage with the yellow card dismissal of their centre Dan Hooton. Rasen took a quick tap and relentlessly recycled the ball before it was moved away from the forwards and Dave Starling powered his way over the line.
A scintillating line break from winger Nick Harvey, who had barely touched the ball all game, ignited the spirits of the travelling support, but in the gathering gloom and with all players indiscernible in their muddied garb Harvey was unable to pick out a supporting ally before he was snaffled by the defence.
Rasen were now gaining territorial superiority and the majority of possession, but the clock was against them. Indefatigable to the end Rasen battered away and were eventually rewarded on the stroke of full-time after the umpteenth phase when lock Ben Chamberlin managed to dot the ball down to secure a losing bonus point.
This game was lost in the first quarter when Matlock were hungrier for the ball and Rasen compounded the felony by kicking away possession and failing to find touch. The loss of players and the conditions did not help, but the spirit seemed subdued and the level of intensity was some way below that shown in the Peterborough Lions game.
The side needs to respect all opposition irrespective of league position or previous results in order to instil the mental attitude required to win games. However the cobwebs have now been blown away after the festive season and a bonus point was achieved, things can only improve.
On Saturday Newark, who also lost their first game of 2014 and lie one place above Rasen in the league, are the visitors to Willingham Road for a 2.15pm kick off.
Teams: Rasen: Ashton, Alldridge, Wootton, Mills, Chamberlin, Pryer, Starling D, Spencer, Everton C, Grint, Robinson, Eddell, Beasley, Harvey, Everton P. Subs: Dearden L (Everton P), Pytlik (Wootton), Starling M (Grint)
Matlock: Ball, Richardson, Goodall, Twyford, Littlewood, Coombes, Wagg, Croft, Morton, Hartley, Packard, Turner, Hooton, Powell, Young C. Subs: Howard, Atkinson, Young J.