Enforced changes didn’t help the cause of Market Rasen and Louth RFC as they had to settle for a losing bonus point at bottom side Old Laurentians on Saturday.
With five changes to the starting line-up from the win over Northampton Old Scouts and the hosts’ improved form, the Red and Greens were under no illusions this would be another stroll in the park like the 66–0 drubbing meted out at Rasen earlier in the season.
Baffling decisions throughout the match for either side made the game a stop-start battle of attrition.
Rasen started brightly and soon found their way into Laurentians territory, but an early penalty turnover, the first of many to blight the game, allowed the hosts to clear.
From the resulting lineout, the Laurentian forwards drove Rasen back a considerable distance before earning another penalty.
With the ball safely drilled into touch, Laurentians secured the lineout and drove the visitors backwards over their line for flanker James Orbinson to touch down. Full-back Reiss Boon added the conversion after six minutes.
The Red and Greens recovered well to slowly build field position and allow hooker Tom Alldridge to narrow the score with a well-struck penalty.
The rest of the half was an attritional affair with neither side able to gain the upper hand.
Laurentians had the best scoring chance before half-time when Jordan Bunn sprinted down the touchline, but the winger opted to kick ahead and the ball bobbled into touch.
Leading 7-3 going into the second half, Laurentians mounted a concerted attack into Rasen’s 22. Full-back Paul Gutteridge attempted an interception with both hands aloft, but was harshly yellow-carded for a deliberate knock-on when he failed to gather the ball cleanly.
Laurentians took full advantage, dispatching the ball into touch and then laying siege to the Rasen line.
Eventually the pressure told and prop Darren Dean forced his way over before Boon slotted the conversion.
Rasen recovered well and began to have the better of the territorial advantage, but couldn’t breach a determined defence.
One promising Rasen attack was halted by a Laurentian hand which deliberately slapped the ball down to prevent it finding its intended target. To the visitors’ frustration, this drew only a penalty and no yellow card.
Rasen continued to ramp up the pressure from the resulting lineout before the referee decided home number eight Glenn Todd had done something to merit a yellow card with 11 minutes left.
Fly-half Peter Everton darted through a gap, but was hauled down short of the line and caught by a stray boot or knee in the process, forcing Everton to leave the field to add to Rasen’s woes.
Rasen’s pressure eventually paid off when Gutteridge, standing in at 10 for Everton, glided through a gap to give Rasen hope with seven minutes left.
After Alldridge’s successful conversion there was still time for more drama and farce.
Laurentians’ hooker Dom Hammond received a yellow card for an alleged head butt, a red card offence, but victim Ben Chamberlin was also sinbinned.
In the fading light Laurentians appeared to have scored a perfectly good try, but the referee ruled otherwise to complete a perplexing performance.
The large number of changes clearly affected Rasen’s rhythm, but in the end, just as in the Newark game, it was the opposition who seemed to want the victory more.
After the opening score, the self-belief of the previous week seemed to melt away only to return in patches, no more so than in the closing stages when the focus was on doing something for their injured team-mate.
The rest of the season is likely to be a dogfight for points to avoid relegation and it is vitally important the side can rekindle the spirit and self confidence that was on full display last week.
Rasen: C. Starling, Alldridge, Southwell, Inman, Hutchinson, Mills, D. Starling, Chamberlin, C. Everton, P. Everton (Berger), Stephens, Brown, Beasley, Goodwin, Gutteridge.
* Next week Paviors are the visitors to Willingham Road for a 2.15pm kick-off. Rasen will be looking to avenge the narrow defeat at Paviors who were thrased 50-7 by Kettering last weekend.