Leighton Buzzard 1st XV 29 Market Rasen & Louth 1st XV 18
Missed tackles, touch finds and opportunities contributed to a dramatic capitulation that resulted in the red and greens leaving Leighton Buzzard empty handed and giving the hosts a first league win of the season.
After such a long journey, Rasen were then confronted with playing uphill in the first half, but once again started strongly as the forwards quickly got into their stride and forced the Buzzards to concede a penalty in the fourth minute. Young Tom Barker, standing in at fullback, slotted the kick to give the visitors an early lead.
Encouraged by a touchline full of former players suitably refreshed by their pre-match libations, the youthful Leighton Buzzard backline went on the offensive as an astute grubber kick from fly half Nick Anstee caught the Rasen defence flat footed. Winger Dan Pearson seized the opportunity and latched onto the ball to touch down in the corner.
Three minutes later, flanker Rory Thompson’s quick tap penalty took full advantage of Rasen’s seemingly catatonic state as he meandered his way to the line from just inside his own half without the semblance of a tackle to impede him before scoring under the posts. Centre Geoff Branwhite added the simple conversion and the Buzzards were flying.
With the red and green slumber over, fly half Paul Cook imitated his opposite number with a grubber kick to find winger Nick Harvey in space. Harvey took the ball on and with help from the forwards, Rasen built up a period of pressure in the home twenty two before Leighton Buzzard conceded another penalty. Barker landed the kick and the Rasen ship had been steadied, for the time being anyway.
A yellow card for Buzzards skipper Andy Jenkins gave Rasen another fillip, which centre Meehal Grint nearly capitalised on when he broke the first line of defence before his pass was adjudged forward with the supporting Barker and hooker Will Oliver in the clear.
Rasen maintained their momentum and continued to press for another score. A quick tap penalty from scrumhalf Andy Neesham caught the home defence unawares and Cook managed to force his way over the line. Barker was unable to master the tricky cross wind and missed the conversion, but Rasen had clawed their way back into the game to within one point at the interval with the advantage of the slope in the second half.
Rasen made a good start to the second period as back rowers Ross Barr and Dave Starling took the ball on, but with Oliver in the clear screaming for the scoring pass, Starling took the ball back inside.
Despite this, Rasen kept up the pressure and yet another quick tap resulted in Grint barrelling his way over the line in the third minute to give his side the lead. Barker added the conversion and now with their composure regained it looked like Rasen would be able to stamp their authority on the game.
However, this early exuberance couldn’t be maintained and began to dissipate with the temporary dismissal of prop Chris Starling for punching.
At the next lineout Jenkins feinted a long throw and as both lines retreated, a huge gap opened at the front for substitute number eight Ryan Fraser to charge through, having taken a pop pass from his hooker who then followed on in support to take a return pass and crash over to put his side within a point of the visitors.
The body language of the two sides told the story and the balance was now tipping back in favour of the Buzzards.
Brimming with confidence and the growing vociferous touchline support, the home side looked to move the ball at every opportunity and following some neat inter passing scrumhalf Ed Ratcliffe’s try put Leighton Buzzard back in front. Branwhite added the two points from the conversion to give his side a six point cushion, but there was still thirteen minutes left on the clock and plenty of time for more twists of fate.
A nasty bobbling ball was responsible for Neesham’s departure through injury, whilst the Buzzards were reduced to fourteen men again as centre Bert Yirrell was yellow carded at the same time, although it wasn’t clear from the touchline what he had done to earn his enforced rest.
Rasen were unable to break down the home defence, despite having a one man advantage, and with time running out, a bold attempt to run the ball out of their own twenty-two gave the Buzzards turnover ball for Ratcliffe to put the final nail in the Rasen coffin with a try in the corner that snatched away a losing bonus point at the final whistle.
Rasen blew hot and cold throughout this game, but should have had enough nous to get something out of it. There was clearly an inability to expedite Sir Clive Woodward’s TCUP principle (thinking calmly under pressure) and with talismanic skipper Ollie Cole consigned to the touchline through injury, the side lacked leadership.
Whilst attacking out of defence is laudable with the game nearly over, a more pragmatic approach would have accepted defeat whilst still securing a losing bonus point.
With a clutch of sides having the same number of wins, bonus points will be vital to the final league standings.
Rasen: Starling C, Oliver, Southwell, Chamberlin, Mills, Barr, Dearden L, Starling D, Neesham A, Cook, Scheepers, Jones, Grint, Harvey, Barker
Subs: Black (not used), Dearden A (Neesham A), Murphy (Mills)
Leighton Buzzard: Cohen, Jenkins, Holmes, Baroux, Taylor, Burrough, Thompson, Byard, Ratcliffe, Anstee, Pearson, Yirrell, Branwhite, Magill, Taylor
Subs: Fraser (Byard), Siddon (Magill), Turney (Holmes)
Next week it’s the opposition’s turn to make a long journey as promoted side Towcestrians visit Willingham Road for a 3pm kick off.