On a rain-soaked afternoon Market Rasen and Louth RFC battled hard against high-flying Derby, but clinical finishing was the real difference between the sides, writes The Tache.
In difficult conditions, the Red and Greens began well using the forwards to take play to the opposition with controlled pick and drives against a well-drilled defence that made every yard hard fought.
Derby bided their time and when they gained possession the controlling boot of George Castledine pushed them deep into Rasen territory, a tactic the young fly-half continued to employ with great effect throughout the first half.
From a lineout close to the home line, Derby took control of the ball and drove Rasen backwards for lock Richard Sparkes to open the scoring. Castledine was equally adept at place kicking and added the conversion.
The hosts continued to work hard, but Derby seemed to be mastering the conditions better with fewer spilled balls which was Rasen’s Achilles heel as they built up several promising attacks only to lose momentum as possession was lost forward.
Another shrewd Castledine kick put Derby back into the danger area and a lineout steal then heaped further pressure on the Rasen defence.
As the Derby forwards worked the ball across the field, a cavernous hole appeared in the home defence and Castledine surged through almost untouched to cross the whitewash before adding his second conversion.
The weather was playing a huge part in proceedings and it was testament to Rasen’s efforts that when presented with a penalty opportunity, Derby opted for the kick at goal. Castledine dispatched it to give the visitors a healthy 17–0 lead at the interval.
An early Castledine penalty within two minutes of the restart extended the visitors lead, but could not diminish the spirit within the red and green jerseys as Rasen continued to battle hard.
As the rainfall intensified, Rasen were eventually rewarded for their endeavour as hooker Tom Alldridge opened his account with a well-struck penalty.
Derby shaded possession amid the gloom, and Castledine finally extended the lead with a break. It paved the way for McGrath Van Wyk to fly in at the corner after joining the line from full-back following good handling from the inside backs.
The final 15 minutes were a real slog with no let-up in the weather and neither side could establish the upper hand.
With the game and the light ebbing away, Rasen kicked a penalty into touch. Despite the conditions, the lineout worked perfectly and Rasen took possession to begin one final assault on the Derby line.
The visitors’ defence held firm as Rasen went through countless phases, but the relentless pressure finally told when Chris Mills burrowed his way over for a well-deserved score with the final play of the game.
In previous encounters Rasen had given Derby too much respect and allowed them to build leads. While Derby’s superior handling meant Rasen had to play catch-up again, there was a distinct change in attitude and the visitors had to work for their scores.
Apart from a few wayward kicks and spilled possession, Rasen stuck to their task in atrocious conditions and kept playing for the full 80 minutes.
This helped them gain some late consolation and deny Derby a try bonus point into the bargain. The visitors were the better side, but Rasen can take heart from this passion and effort which could prove vital in closer games.
Rasen: C. Starling (capt), Alldridge, Southwell (Haig), Mills, Thornes (Inman), L. Dearden, Pryer, Chamberlin, C. Everton, Wise, Batterbury, Beasley, D. Starling (Pope), Goodwin, P. Everton.
* Rasen continue their home run next week when Huntingdon will be the visitors to Willingham Road for a 2.15pm kick-off.