Old Northamptonians 1st XV 37 Market Rasen & Louth 1st XV 3
The red and greens went down to table topping Old Northamptonians in atrocious conditions where the scoreline didn’t really do justice to a battling Rasen performance from a much changed side, which was further hampered by late withdrawals.
Rasen had first use of a slight pitch incline as both sides began cautiously in the persistent rain where the ebb and flow of the game turned the first quarter into a kicking competition between the two fly halves, Rasen’s Matt Sutton and Alex Rose for the home side.
Rose struck first in the second minute, but after a missed attempt a minute later, Sutton then found his range to draw the sides level after ten minutes.
Rose’s next attempt fell short before Old Northamptonians front row gained the upper hand and forced their counterparts to stand up to give him another opportunity, which he slotted to restore the home team’s lead. Moments later Sutton was back in action, but was unable to restore parity as his kick failed to make the target.
Back came Old Northamptonians forcing Rasen into their own twenty two. The red and greens won the lineout, but the ball then emerged on the Old Northamptonians side and with the Rasen defence stood shallow in expectation of making a clearance kick, the home backs moved the ball wide to wing Adam Civil to take advantage of a clear overlap.
This signalled a period of dominance for the Old Northamptonians as they laid siege to the Rasen twenty two, but the visitors defence held firm with a dogged determination to keep their line intact. On one occasion Rasen did manage to break out from a line out to make a twenty metre drive deep into home territory. Rasen had soaked up a lot of pressure, but a half time deficit of 11-3 was not insurmountable.
The second period began badly for Rasen and with some confusion. In the third minute Old Northamptonians were awarded a penalty close to the Rasen line. Scrumhalf Tom Goodman quickly grabbed the ball, tapped it and ran over the line. The referee looking over his shoulder and seeing Goodman ground the ball blew on his whistle. It looked like he was pulling the penalty back to be retaken, but in fact he was awarding the try even though the initial action had taken place behind his back. Rose added the conversion and Rasen literally had a hill to climb.
A superb sleight of hand from Sutton put skipper Dave Starling, playing in the unaccustomed inside centre position, into space. A surging run from the erstwhile flanker took him deep into the home side’s half, but lacking support he kicked over the advancing defence. Sweeping up, fullback Rory Seymour’s safe hands gathered the ball before he set off on a scintillating run putting his side back on the offensive.
Old Northamptonians then went through the phases to move ever closer to the Rasen line. The alert Goodman cajoling his pack as they moved forward then spied a chink in the Rasen defence and sniped over the line for his second try, the trademark of a good predatory scrumhalf.
It would be a further 23 minutes before another score, but in the intervening period both sides gave as good as they got as they slogged it out in a veritable mud bath.
The heavy pitch eventually took its toll as Rasen were unable to contain the Old Northamptonians pack in a series of scrummages resulting in the referee awarding a penalty try, converted by number eight Greg Mathers in the absence of the substituted Rose.
In the last play of the match Old Northamptonians sucked in the visiting defence for centre Kieran O’Connor to gallop around the outside for a final try.
The weather had been a major limiting factor in this game and unfortunately Old Northamptonians were more adept at clinging on to the soap like ball. With five changes in personnel as well as positional changes, it was always going to take Rasen time to settle, but the players stuck to their task and remained competitive in the energy sapping mud. There were glimmers of the attacking potential and a sense of unity amongst the players, which in some instances has been sadly lacking in previous games.
League action resumes on December 8 where the visit of Peterborough Lions, currently lying second in the tabl,e will mark the completion of the first round of matches with every opponent played once. On their only visit to Willingham Road in the national cup competition, Rasen came out on top to prove the red and green spirit to be mightier than the cheque book.
Rasen : Ashton, Alldridge, Cole, Crowe, Inman, Barr, Dearden L, Chamberlin, Starling M, Sutton, Everton P, Starling D, Robinson, Harvey, Ward
Subs (all used): Houghton, Inchley, Pytlik
Old Northamptonians: Edwards, Brew, Rainbow, Hughes, Howes, Mills, Fullthorpe, Mathers, Goodman, Rose A, Civil, Graham, O’Connor, Spencer, Seymour
Subs (all used): Draper, Napier Rose J