Midlands One East
Market Rasen & Louth 1st XV 28
What a difference a week makes! The Red and Greens put their abject performance of the previous week behind them and earned a vital 28-0 victory at Huntingdon in the Midlands One East.
Market Rasen & Louth still had to make their almost obligatory weekly team reshuffle to take on the Stags at their Racecourse ground, where Rasen had never previously emerged victorious.
Rasen began the match with a strong wind at their backs, playing down a slope that seemed to indicate that this would be the proverbial game of two halves with the visitors looking to build a lead with the advantage before the opposition had their turn in the second half.
Rasen made a bright start with the forwards building field position and putting the Stags under pressure from the outset.
With eight minutes gone Paul Gutteridge cut into the backline from his blindside wing and sliced through Huntingdon’s defence for the opening try, converted by flyhalf Jake Goodison, to give Rasen the start they wanted.
Rasen continued in the same vein, but Huntingdon battled hard to keep the red and green horde at bay, although they were struggling with Rasen’s physicality as their players received regular attention from their overworked physio.
After the early onslaught, Huntingdon came into the game more as they worked their way upfield and kept Rasen pinned in their own half for long periods.
With Rasen pressing, a hurried Huntingdon clearance kick was charged down by flanker Leigh Dearden.
His brother Adam, chasing the loose ball, inadvertently caught it with his knee in the act of sliding down to gain the touchdown, which unfortunately knocked it over the dead ball line.
However, Rasen were now back where they wanted to be although the clock was edging towards the interval.
In the 37th minute, Goodison spied a gap and slipped through it with enough pace and strength to reach the line for a second Rasen try, which he quickly converted.
There was no respite for the Stags in a frantic close to the half as they conceded a penalty in the final minute.
The Red and Greens’ forward machine went into overdrive with their potent catch-and-drive routine resulting in a try for substitute David Haig, again converted by Goodison.
As the whistle sounded, Rasen were 21–0 in front, but would it be enough before turning around to face the elements and the slope?
The second half began as expected with Rasen forced to defend and having to work their way out of defence by close driving interplay.
Surprisingly, the Stags didn’t have any real cutting edge and, as the half wore on, they seemed to become increasingly frustrated as they failed to gain a foothold in Rasen territory.
A needless clothesline tackle from Huntingdon skipper Doug Bentley poleaxed John Norman, forcing the fullback to leave the field.
From then on Huntingdon were not at the races as the heavens opened and, despite playing into the driving rain, Rasen took a stranglehold on the game.
Keeping the ball close, Rasen worked their way into the Huntingdon 22 and extracted a penalty, but Goodison misjudged the wind and fired the ball dead with his attempted touch kick.
However, that was of little consequence as the visitors continued to lay siege and keep the Stags pinned in their own territory.
With Rasen edging forward, maverick substitute winger Nick Harvey marked his return to first team action by picking up the ball and darting through an unguarded gap close to the ruck to score the all-important bonus point try.
Goodison maintained his 100 per cent kicking record with a well-struck conversion to give Rasen an unassailable lead.
Moments later, the referee called a halt to proceedings, but not before there was time to issue a yellow card to Huntingdon prop Luke Murphy, blowing up to put the Stags out of their misery.
This was the performance of the season so far, made all the more remarkable coming after a drubbing at Derby and on a ground where Rasen hadn’t won before against a side having their best season in this division.
The commitment and physicality remained for the full eighty minutes and Huntingdon couldn’t cope with it.
This wasn’t a perfect display, but momentary lapses and extravagant long passes can be forgiven as these unforced errors were eradicated and the players stuck to their task with a determination rarely on display this season.
The mind-set from the outset was spot on, with the first penalty in a very kickable position being spurned in the quest for tries, which ultimately put a further point between Rasen and Newark, who also won, but couldn’t gain a bonus point.
RASEN: C. Starling, Seward, Cole, Mills, Inman, L. Dearden, Pryer, Chamberlin, M. Starling, Goodison, Gutteridge, A. Dearden, Batterbury, Stephens, Norman; Subs: Haig (Cole), Harvey (Stephens), Crowe (Inman).
Next week sees a break from league action as Rasen travel to rivals, Grimsby for the Lincolnshire Cup semi-final.
Kick off time is yet to be confirmed.