Spalding 1st XV 8
Market Rasen &
Louth 1st XV 10
LINGERING effects of the festive break were evident as both sides showed signs of rustiness in a taut, and at times fractious encounter to mark the resumption of the league program.
Spalding began brightly, but an interception from centre Paul Cook followed by his long kick took the red and greens deep into their hosts territory.
Spalding managed to scramble back and clear the immediate danger, but this respite was short lived as Rasen kept up the pressure to force a scrum.
The solid Rasen eight secured possession and the ball was slipped back inside as Cook’s sublime line sliced through the defence to open the scoring.
Fullback Meehal Grint added the conversion to increase the lead after only three minutes.
Any notion that this would mark an early capitulation were soon dispelled as Spalding started to put some phases together and, spinning the ball wide, showed the dangerous potential of the electric pace of winger Ollie Phillips.
With 16 minutes gone Spalding were fortuitously awarded a scrum just inside Rasen’s half as the referee erroneously adjudged scrumhalf Michael Starling to have knocked on when it had been a Spalding hand reaching over the maul.
A wheeled scrum opened up the blindside for scrumhalf Rob Lucas to make a clean break for glory, but as the covering defence came across he flipped the ball inside for supporting flanker Harry Sharman to crash over the whitewash.
In a tight first half there were few scoring opportunities, Spalding lock Josh McNally ignored an overlap opting to take contact with the line in sight and Rasen winger Adam Dearden veered back inside with the line seemingly open for a try in the corner, before flanker Ben Chamberlin subsequently burst clear from a central maul on halfway.
Chamberlin was hauled down close to the twenty-two and from the ensuing melee, Spalding skipper Sharman turned from hero to villain, receiving a yellow card to present Grint with a penalty kick that was the final score of the half to give Rasen a 10 – 5 lead at the interval.
The second half turned out to be a battle of nerves as neither side could gain the upper hand.
An early break from lock Will Thornes came to nought as he couldn’t match the pace of the home defence when following his own kick over the top.
Rasen were caught offside in the 14th minute and fly half Dave Hankinson made no mistake with the kick to bring his side within two points.
This score seemed to lift Spalding as they moved the ball wide to bring fullback Jim Williams into the line running on a wide arc.
With the line in sight Adam Dearden cut him down with a try saving tackle and the danger was cleared as Rasen were awarded a penalty for holding on.
A further fracas reduced Spalding to 14 men again as hooker Craig Dowse received a yellow card and a ten minute break.
With prop Andy Branton injured in the first half, Spalding had used their front row replacement and Rasen’s numerical superiority was severely hampered as the game had to continue with uncontested scrums negating the red and green supremacy in the set piece.
Before the hooker’s scheduled return, Hankinson saw his long range penalty attempt fall short as Spalding looked to take advantage of the de-powered red and green scrum.
When the referee beckoned Dowse to return to action after serving his temporary suspension from the game, there was controversy as the hooker was declared injured and unfit to return, thereby leaving Spalding to continue to benefit from the uncontested scrums.
Incensed by this apparent act of wanton gamesmanship over the alleged injury, Rasen upped their game and pushed Spalding deep into their own territory.
To their credit the home side defended doggedly and managed to keep the red and greens at bay, but only at the expense of another yellow card.
Sharman collected his second yellow and was dismissed from the field permanently with ironically ten minutes of the game remaining.
Another abortive long range penalty kick from Hankinson drew the game to a close and prevented the travesty that would have given Spalding a one point victory.
A win is a win and Rasen stuck to their task in the face of a cacophonous partisan home crowd, which perhaps in some way contributed to their own team’s downfall with incessant criticism of the match official.
Next week Peterborough, who currently sit one point behind Rasen, are the visitors to Willingham Road for a 2.15 kick off.
Rasen: Starling C, Southwell, Cole, Inman, Thornes, Dearden L, Chamberlin, Starling D, Starling M, John, Everton P, Jones, Cook, Dearden A, Grint
Subs: McDaid (John), Murphy (not used), Seward (not used)
Spalding: Branton, Dowse, Waudby, Haighton, McNally, Duerden T, Sharman, Duerden E, Lucas, Hankinson, Adams, Brown, Chappell, Phillips, Williams
Subs: Childs, Rowlands, Scotney