After a disastrous start that saw Newark score after 40 seconds the red and greens forward power overwhelmed the opposition to seal victory.
Newark gathered the kick off unimpeded and after a couple of forward drives released the ball for fullback Ben Usher to join the line. With consummate ease the youngster cut through the wafer thin Rasen defence to glide in under the posts leaving his skipper Matt Clark with an easy conversion.
The Newark elation was short lived after early scrums showed what a torrid time they were going to face for the remainder of the game. Following a scrum Rasen broke up field and from the ensuing ruck, Chris Everton’s predatory vision took full advantage of a gap in the Newark fringe defence. The scrumhalf darted through the hole and then expertly chipped the ball over the last defender to win the race for the touchdown.
Rasen continued to exert pressure on the Nottinghamshire side to force a penalty deep in the Newark twenty two. The usually favoured lineout option was rejected in preference for a scrum where Ollie Cole, restored to prop after his dalliance in the back row, was destroying his opposite number. This decision was totally vindicated as the Rasen eight’s controlled march to the line gave number eight Henry Spencer the privilege of scoring to put Rasen into a lead that they would never surrender.
Four minutes later a poor pass in midfield went to ground, but centre Dan Robinson was on hand to gather the bobbling ball to set off from halfway. Drawing in the last defender, the youngster expertly delivered the scoring pass for winger George Edell to mark his farewell appearance before his imminent departure to Antipodean shores with a try in the corner.
Despite this turnaround Newark still hadn’t lost the belief that their early score had engendered as they sought to prise open the visiting defence.
Newark’s progress was halted when Nick Harvey attempted an interception, but the winger’s efforts were construed as a deliberate knock on and the referee brandished a yellow card.
This prompted a flurry of penalties as Newark looked to make something of their numerical superiority, but the Rasen forwards were still dominant when they pushed Newark back on their own put in at a five metre defensive scrummage to clear the danger.
The visitors were aghast when they were further depleted to 13 men with a second yellow card, this time for Spencer, although the cause was unclear.
Having failed to penetrate the red and green line Newark took a pragmatic approach with Clark slotting the penalty kick.
Restored to 14 men Rasen went back on the offensive with the forwards bearing down on the line where Newark flanker Lewis Cove’s intervention earned him a 10 minute break for not rolling away. There was just enough time for a lineout following the penalty kick and Rasen hammered home their advantage with a well worked catch and drive finished off by hardworking lock Chris Mills to give his side a 20–10 lead at the interval.
Following the resumption of play you would have been forgiven for thinking the home side were in the ascendant as Newark opened the half with purpose and Rasen were conceding penalties at an alarming rate.
From a lineout Newark worked the ball for their backs and Usher again displayed his fine running skills with an incisive line that took him beyond the visiting defence to open the scoring.
Rasen’s response was swift, a penalty found touch and lock Tom Pytlik rose to gather the lineout before being driven over the line by a pack clearly not running out of steam.
However Newark were not yet down and out with the introduction from the bench of Aloesi Waqalevu, whose strong running had posed problems in the past. This was to be no exception when the powerful centre, affectionately known as “Buddha” by his teammates, broke through the Rasen defence with a mixture of guile and strength to cross the line. Clark added the conversion to put his side rather flatteringly within three points of the visitors.
The final quarter belonged to Rasen as the forward power and stamina began to tell. From a solid scrum midfield Rasen took the ball up field as skipper Dave Starling punched a hole through the Newark defence to find centre partner Robinson, who was too quick for the home defence as he scampered over the line.
Rasen kept up the pressure as the forwards rumbled towards the line again, but with a hint of complacency the ball was stolen and Newark were able to gain a brief respite from the haven of the touchline. A superb lineout steal by Pytlik set Rasen on course again for the Newark line before the procession was halted by illegal means.
Matt Sutton, having earlier taken over the kicking duties from Robinson with a similar outcome, finally landed Rasen’s first successful kick of the afternoon to cement the lead.
Newark couldn’t escape the Rasen shackles and were soon back defending deep in their twenty two. After some neat inter play flanker Ben Chamberlin juggled the ball forward with the line at his mercy, but this still left Newark to face a final Rasen scrum.
Even with their own put in, the men in blue had no answer to the erstwhile blowing red and green pack who shunted them off the ball. Prop turned flanker Chris Starling picked the ball up and with those piston legs still working at full bore powered his way over the line. Sutton ended the game with a well struck conversion to give Rasen a well deserved and satisfying victory.
Despite the early Newark score and some indifferent tackling in parts, this was an accomplished performance built firmly around a dominant forward display. The killer instinct lacking on occasions in the past was at the forefront as Rasen went for the jugular and didn’t step off the gas for the full 80 minutes.
This Saturday Old Northamptonians, fresh from a 109–3 thumping of Mansfield, are the visitors to Willingham Road for a 3pm kick off in what should be a stern test of Rasen’s credentials.
Teams - Rasen: Haig, Alldridge, Cole, Mills, Pytlik, Starling C, Chamberlin, Spencer, Everton C, Sutton, Eddell, Robinson, Starling D, Harvey, Everton P - Subs: Southwell (Cole), Inman (not used), Lawton (not used)
Newark: Dunning, Chapple, Price, Tatham, Williams, Webster, Cove, Curry, Clark, Coen, Stark, Brewer, Ford, Galinski, Usher - Subs: Priestley, Bartsch, Waqalevu