Market Rasen and Louth RFC faced the daunting challenge of an away trip to Bedford, but after leaking two sloppy tries they made Bedford work for their victory.
Despite the cold, drizzly conditions, Bedford began with their customary high tempo game, but it was Rasen who had the first scoring opportunity.
Fly-half Jake Goodison chipped ahead and gathered his own kick before Bedford snuffed out the attack by unfair means.
Goodison wasn’t able to mark his return to Rasen colours with a successful penalty kick, but Rasen remained deep in Bedford territory until they conceded a penalty.
Winger Rob Ward took advantage of a sleepy Rasen as he tapped and charged upfield, almost unopposed, until the Red and Greens scrambled back to slow up proceedings in their own 22.
Bedford poured forward and continued to recycle possession while Rasen, although being driven backwards, worked tirelessly to repel their hosts. Eventually the pressure told and full-back Charlie Darlow glided through a gap to open the scoring.
In past visits to Bedford, this would have signalled the start of a procession, but today was a different story as Rasen stepped up and looked to build field position through the patient driving work of the forwards.
This all came to nought when Bedford regained possession and spun the ball wide to find Rasen had developed a sudden aversion to tackling.
Flanker Sven Meiland galloped into space before linking with fellow back-rower Andy Ince 40 metres out. Chasing Rasen defenders failed to commit to the tackle, leaving the number eight to run in almost unimpeded.
After this second lapse, Rasen picked up their game again to go toe-to-toe with their opponents. Both sides regularly swapped attack and defence before half-time arrived with no further additions to the scoreline.
In previous visits, Bedford had often been out of sight by the interval, but being only two scores adrift gave Rasen something to build on in the second half and belief that they could leave with some reward for their efforts.
After a bright start, Rasen’s and Goodison’s day took a turn for the worse as the fly-half was sin-binned for injudicious use of the boot.
Bedford were not going to let this chance slip through their fingers, but they were initially assisted when a crooked lineout throw failed to catch the official’s eye and the hosts marauded into the Rasen 22.
In times of adversity these sort of incidents seem to beset struggling sides, but Rasen were up for the challenge as the 14 men in red and green put their bodies on the line to stem the relentless tide of Bedford attacks.
But Bedford inched their way to the line with each phase and Rasen eventually ran out of defenders as the ball was moved wide for lock Nick Thomas to dive over for another score.
When Goodison returned to the field there was still plenty of time for Rasen to wrench something out of the match and they set about this with real conviction.
A penalty gained on the edge of the Bedford 22 was drilled into touch and Rasen gained their reward for a well-executed catch and drive when flanker Leigh Dearden was driven over the whitewash.
With 10 minutes left, the game opened up a little as Rasen went in pursuit of a losing bonus point, while Bedford were looking for a fourth try to collect a bonus point of their own.
And after a promising Rasen attack broke down, Bedford returned to Red and Green territory and drove forward from a lineout before flanker Rob Watkins stretched over in the corner to secure his side’s bonus point.
While Rasen had returned home with nothing there was plenty to commend the team’s performance which forced very accomplished opponents to battle for victory.
However, switching off so early in the game proved very costly and left Rasen playing catch-up again. Their response to the early setbacks was excellent and proved the Rasen spirit is still alive and kicking.
Rasen: C. Starling, Seward, Haig (Cole), Mills, Chamberlin, L. Dearden, Pryer, D. Starling, M. Starling, Goodison, Gutteridge, Brown, Beasley, Wise, Norman. Sub (unused): Denniss.
* Rasen face Bugbrooke in the penultimate home game of the season on Saturday with a 2.15pm kick-off.