A much-changed Red and Greens XV came within a whisker of continuing their winning run at Wellingborough despite a raft of absentees.
Playing up the slope, Rasen were slow to react as Wellingborough took full advantage of a narrow defence to create an overlap for winger Kieran Checkley to open the scoring after only three minutes.
Pete Vickers’ attempted conversion sailed just wide, and there was only one person in the ground who thought it had been successful, and unfortunately, he was the man with the whistle who awarded the conversion; a decision that would have severe ramifications on the result.
After this early setback Rasen began to get their game together as the forwards went through the phases to trouble the hosts.
At the same time, Wellingborough skipper Vickers was pulling the strings at fly-half as the game developed into a contest of Rasen’s forward supremacy against Wellingborough’s speedy backs.
Play remained in the central portion of the field for much of the half. But as half-time approached Rasen’s forwards made inroads into Wellingborough territory with number eight Ben Chamberlin leading the vanguard.
With Rasen beginning to win the lion’s share of possession, a score looked just a matter of time, and centre Josh White latched on to fly-half Dan Robinson’s perfectly weighted chip to crash over the whitewash. Robinson added the conversion to level the scores at 7–7 as the half-time whistle sounded.
With the slope in their favour and the forwards having the upper hand over the home eight, Rasen had high hopes for the second half.
And from an early lineout Rasen drove the ball on and were only halted by unlawful means resulting in a penalty which Robinson nailed to nudge the visitors ahead.
Despite being under the hammer up front, Wellingborough knew their strength lay in the backs and they tried to move the ball away from the forwards at every opportunity.
Ben Taylor’s break turned defence into attack as Rasen’s inexperienced backs were caught out of position, allowing the scrum-half to take play deep into the visitors’ 22.
As the Rasen defence hastily tried to re-gather itself, quick recycling and a neat inside pop pass from Vickers opened a clear path for centre Jason Minney to glide in under the posts.
Vickers slotted the simple conversion and Rasen had to start again.
Undeterred, Rasen set their forwards loose again to build field position before another lineout catch and drive paved the way for Robinson to dart through a hole to restore the lead and then increase it with his own conversion.
Another probing kick from Robinson was well gathered by substitute winger Spen Holvey who had worked hard to reach the ball.
But the youngster had no support and was penalised for not releasing in his attempt to hold up play, awaiting a team-mate or two.
Wellingborough seized on the chance and a quick tap from Vickers caught Rasen napping again as play moved from one 22 to the other.
Rasen filed back and managed to bring a temporary halt to the attack, but Vickers astutely spotted his winger in the clear and his perfectly-weighted cross-field kick allowed Checkley to gather and dive over.
Wellingborough were now back in front, but the lead was short-lived as Robinson added another penalty following more good work from the forwards.
By now the Rasen eight had a stranglehold on the set scrum where Wellingborough simply couldn’t compete with the Red and Green power.
From a five-metre scrum, Rasen mercilessly drove Wellingborough backwards as Chamberlin expertly maintained control of the ball at the base before dotting down to put Rasen six points clear with three minutes left.
However, Wellingborough were not done as Rasen failed to secure possession from the restart.
With a sense of déjà vu, Vickers perfectly reprised his cross-field kick double act with Checkley as the winger scored wide out.
From a position similar to his previous failed attempt, Vickers landed the killer conversion which ended the match and cruelly snatched victory from a Rasen side who had controlled much of the game.
The performance of the forwards was admirable, and Robinson continued his good form in directing proceedings from fly-half, but the side’s defensive shape was found wanting on occasions which was simply down to inexperience at this level.
The side is capable of more good things in 2017, but new First XV coach Matt Sutton needs the commitment to drive his plans forward and that won’t be achieved with only a handful of the squad turning up for training on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Rasen: C. Starling, Haig, Southwell (Alldridge), Pilkington, Inman, Mills, Grant, Chamberlin, M. Starling, Robinson, J. Norton, Goodison (Holvey), White, C. Everton, Gutteridge.
* Rasen resume the league campaign after the winter break with the visit of Melton to Willingham Road on Saturday, January 7.