Loughborough 20-25 Market Rasen
On a cold crisp afternoon the match smouldered, but never really caught alight as a strangely subdued Rasen took on an enthusiastic Loughborough side showing eleven changes to the starting line up that had gained their solitary league win at Willingham Road earlier in the season. The red and greens had first use of the breeze and slope, but it was Loughborough who began the game with an air of confidence that belied their desperate league position and within two minutes fly half Lewis Waters was lining up his first penalty attempt. The kick missed the target, but there was no let up from the home side as Rasen were kept pinned in their own half until Waters opened the scoring with a ninth minute penalty. Rasen made their first visit to Loughborough territory from the restart and made an immediate riposte as the home side were penalised for holding on. Fullback Matt Sutton opened his account with a sweetly struck penalty to bring the sides level. Another penalty from Waters hit the post before Sutton edged ahead in his personal kicking duel with a penalty to give Rasen the lead. This seemed to have the desired effect as the red and greens emerged from their malaise and started to put some phases together. With an increasing supply of possession Sutton came into the line and cut open the home defence with his silky running to score the first try of the game and then added to his personal tally with another well struck conversion. On the basis of recent form it now looked like Rasen would kick on to greater glory whilst Loughborough would meekly capitulate, but the form book went out of the window as Loughborough re-emerged as the preeminent force and Rasen were compelled to retreat into their defensive shell. Waters added another penalty before the interval and at half time with Rasen holding a far from commanding 13 – 6 lead it was still anyone’s game.
As the second half began, Rasen soon found themselves deep in Loughborough’s twenty two, but with remarkable enterprise the home side launched an attack from the shadows of their own posts. Aided by some indifferent Rasen defending Loughborough were rewarded for their endeavour as centre James Brind completed this audacious passage of play with a try close to the posts. Waters radar temporarily deserted him as the conversion sailed wide, but the renewed energy in the perceived underdog was palpable. Loughborough remained on the offensive as Rasen were on the brink of receiving some much needed succour from a relieving penalty when the referee reversed it. Waters made no mistake to give Loughborough a one point lead. Stern words under the posts rekindled the passion in red and green hearts as Rasen sought to redress the balance. It didn’t take long coming as the red and green pack shifted into overdrive and had the home forwards backpedalling to concede a penalty. With the ensuing lineout won on the Loughborough twenty-two the forwards peeled off to unleash stampeding prop Ollie Cole who was unstoppable. Sutton’s metronomic boot landed the conversion and Rasen were back in the lead only four minutes after surrendering the advantage. However Loughborough were in determined mood and responded in a positive fashion as they forced Rasen to concede two quick penalties. Waters gratefully accepted both chances with the second kick bringing his side level as the game entered the final quarter. In this staccato performance the red and greens upped the ante again to put pressure on Loughborough close to their own line. Eventually the home side cracked as flanker Gaz Bottomley received a yellow card, although by all accounts it seems he was a victim of mistaken identity and the perpetrator remained on the field. From the penalty Rasen employed the tried and trusted catch and drive scenario, which drove flanker Leigh Dearden over the line for the decisive score. The visitors had a further opportunity from another catch and drive, but it wasn’t as fruitful and Loughborough regained possession. Desperate for a morale boosting victory Loughborough opted to run the ball from anywhere on the field in the closing stages of the game and this made for a jittery finale, but Rasen managed to hold their nerve to secure another win.
This was an enigmatic performance with periods of patience and composure interspersed with a return to the pre-Christmas idiosyncrasies. Importantly the team pulled together to grind out a win against a Loughborough side with a level of commitment and application far from indicative of their league standing. The spectre of the penalty count of recent weeks continued to haunt the side presenting the opposition with 7 kickable chances from which they amassed 15 points. Whilst outscoring the opposition in terms of tries is laudable, this penchant for conceding penalties needs to be eradicated as the remainder of the season is against sides in the top half of the table and could be decisive in close run games.
Rasen: Starling C, Alldridge, Cole, Mills, Crowe, Barr, Dearden L, Chamberlin, Noquet, Goodison, Robinson, Starling D, Beasley, Harvey, Sutton
Subs (all used): Bullivant, Bell, Everton P
Loughborough: Squires, Kerswill, Blades, Page, Fuller, Bottomley, Idehen, Shusa, Lamb, Waters, Wilson, Brown, Brind, Chomik, Sands
Subs: Holmes, Stevens, Partington
Next week it’s back to home action as Towcestrians pop up to Rasen for a 2-15 kick off. On their previous visit Towcestrians surrendered a 19 – 0 lead for Rasen to run out winners 26 – 19. Whilst they are unlikely to be as generous this year, this side is capable of turning them over again so get along to the ground and give the boys your support.
For those of you with a mathematical bent, there are 6 league games remaining and the maximum points Rasen need to accumulate from those games to remain in this division is 13 on the basis of current standings.